FutureStructure

Haverhill, Mass., Eager to Pilot New Solar-Powered Bench

The city has unveiled abench that offers free, solar-powered charging for personal devices.

by Mike LaBella, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. / January 12, 2017

(TNS)--HAVERHILL — If you happen to be downtown and your cell phone or other mobile device is running critically low on power, take a stroll along the city's new boardwalk behind Harbor Place on Merrimack Street. There you will find a newly installed solar-powered bench with ports for charging your device at no cost.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the bench was designed by Cambridge-based Soofa, an MIT Media Lab spin-off.

The bench, which provides free, solar-powered charging for mobile devices, has a feature that will allow the city to track how often the bench is used, as a way to measure positive community development, the mayor said.

People can sit on the bench, enjoy the waterfront, and recharge their portable devices, he said.

"Haverhill is in the midst of a 21st century renaissance," Fiorentini said. "From our parks and community spaces to our thriving arts district downtown, Haverhill is growing. More and more young people are coming here to live, work, and play, and this is just one way for us to invest in our parks and provide the modern amenities people have come to expect."

The city has installed one Soofa bench as a pilot behind the boardwalk. The mayor said the cost of the bench was approximately $3,800 plus installation and was paid for by a grant.

"We’re excited to partner with Haverhill during such an exciting time for the city,” said Sandra Richter, Soofa CEO and co-founder. "The story of Haverhill’s transformation from a historic shoe manufacturing city into a modern and inviting home to the arts, recreation, historic architecture, and growing families very much matches our own philosophy, of combining old and new for public benefit."

"This is a pilot program," Fiorentini said. "We hope that the public likes this as they do in the 50 other communities where it has been installed. If this works out, we will consider more installations. This pilot program is part of our general efforts to modernize our city and to turn towards solar as a alternative means of providing energy."

Haverhill joins Ashland, Boston, Cambridge, Chicopee, Needham, North Andover, Weston, Wellesley and other communities across Massachusetts as the state’s first cities and towns to pilot Soofa’s smart urban furniture, bolstering sustainability awareness among the public and bringing technology into public space, according to Fiorentini.

About Soofa: Soofa connects city infrastructure to the Internet. The company was founded by a team of female engineers and designers from Harvard and MIT. Their flagship product, the Soofa Bench, was piloted with the city of Boston in 2014. Based on the product’s success, Soofa Benches have been installed in 20 U.S. states and more than 50 cities.

©2017 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.