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March 26, 2013

Many moving parts in Lower Millyard plan

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.

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