, Newburyport, MA

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April 5, 2014

3 Port buildings OK'd for demo; 4th may be saved

NEWBURYPORT— The Newburyport Historical Commission Thursday night approved the demolition of three downtown buildings whose removal could facilitate the construction of a hotel on Merrimac Street, but it withheld action on a fourth request.

The commission acted on a request from New England Development to take down four structures it owns near the intersection of Merrimac and Titcomb streets.

City officials say the company is considering an 85-room hotel and possible parking garage there, but NED executives have been circumspect about specific plans. NED has extensive landholdings in Newburyport, and owns several adjacent parcels along Merrimac Street from Titcomb to Market. Those parcels represent a fairly large area of land on the western end of the downtown.

The commission, through a unanimous vote, declared that three structures could be demolished: 83 Merrimac St. (the old Canepa house), 85-87 Merrimac St. (Pure Bliss) and 9 Titcomb St. (former Lombardi oil site).

The 83 Merrimac St. structure, an empty former two-family residence, was deemed a public hazard. Indeed, one municipal building official reported that “It is in such poor condition that the fire chief says he won’t send in his units if it catches fire out of concern for their safety.”

The box-like brick structure at 9 Titcomb (circa 1920) and the small retail shop at 85-87 Merrimac (circa 1930) were deemed to be lacking in historical value.

Regarding 1 Titcomb St., several residents, including preservationist leader Tom Kolterjahn, said city officials should consider moving the structure and using it as affordable housing.

Commission chairwoman Linda Smiley suggested that NED executives consider moving the four-story aquamarine building, which years ago had been moved onto that site.

Scott Kelley, a vice president of development for NED, said he would “do some homework” on the feasibility of moving the structure. No discussion took place on who would pay for such a move or on what land it could be placed.

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