NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 26, 2013

Many moving parts in Lower Millyard plan

Amesbury City Notebook
Mac Cerullo

---- — A lot has been already said about the plan to build the new Heritage Park in the Lower Millyard, but tonight the City Council will officially begin discussing the matter at its Finance Committee meeting.

The plan has a lot of moving parts, and it has evolved over the past few months as certain aspects of the project have proven unfeasible while others have been bolstered by additional state, federal and private funds. There are four items before the council that specifically tie into the project, though all contribute to the same end. Three of those will be discussed tonight.

First, the council must vote on whether to officially establish Heritage Park. Then, the council must decide whether it wants to authorize $725,000 to be spent on the park’s construction. After that, the council will vote on whether to accept a $400,000 Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant that will reimburse a portion of the money spent and reduce the city’s total financial commitment to $325,000.

The fourth item before the council is whether to accept a parcel of land on Water Street being donated by the Water Street Realty Trust, which is being sold to the city for $1 and is to comprise a major portion of the finished park. That item will be discussed at next week’s Ordinance Committee meeting along with the other three items.

If the council votes to approve all of these measures, then it will pave the way for the city to begin cleaning up the blighted Lower Millyard area. When the project is done, officials say Heritage Park will become the centerpiece for a new, redeveloped area of the downtown.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s not. The Lower Millyard has seen decades of industrial use between the DPW garage and the various factories that have called the area home over the years. That means there are decades worth of contaminants that need to be addressed, and even though Amesbury will have the help of the state Brownfield Support Team, cleaning up hazardous materials is never a simple proposition.

There is also the matter of the expanded parking deck and the realignment of Water Street, which are not part of the current round of Lower Millyard discussions but are a part of the overall plan and will surely come up during the meeting.

Then there is the Amesbury Carriage Alliance’s plan to refurbish the old Carriage Museum building. The Carriage Alliance, which is a joint venture between the Chamber of Commerce and the Carriage Museum, wants to fix the building up so that it can serve as the new home of the Chamber of Commerce offices, the Carriage Museum, a new visitors center and provide space for local artists.

There are a lot of things to consider, and that’s before you even get into the tax implications. Hoping to answer some of the questions residents are sure to pose, the Carriage Alliance has scheduled a public information session for next week to go over all the details associated with the project.

The Information Night and Public Forum will be held next Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Costello Transportation Center, and representatives from the mayor’s office, the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the Carriage Museum are expected to be in attendance to help answer questions.

The Carriage Alliance has also produced an informational video about the project narrated by School Committee member Peter Hoyt, and the Chamber of Commerce has a page on their website dedicated to it.

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The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:

Tonight

School Committee Policy Subcommittee, 9 a.m., Amesbury High School, Superintendent’s Office.

City Council Finance Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall Auditorium.

Wednesday

Amesbury Middle School Parent Advisory Group (PAG), 8 a.m., AMS Team Conference Room.

City Council Finance Committee, Continued from Tuesday if necessary, time TBD, City Hall Auditorium.

Thursday

Retirement Board Meeting, 1:30 p.m., 37 Millyard Park.

Board of Assessors, 5:15 p.m., City Hall Auditorium.

Board of Health, 6:30 p.m., 9 School Street.

Zoning Board of Appeals, 7 p.m., City Hall Auditorium.

Monday

Conservation Commission, 6:30 p.m., City Hall Auditorium.

Historical Commission, 7 p.m., 9 School Street.

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Mac Cerullo covers Amesbury for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3238 or by email at mcerullo@newburyportnews.com. Follow Mac on Twitter at @MacCerullo.