, Newburyport, MA

March 28, 2013

New drawing reflects changes in Lower Millyard design

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — City officials unveiled a new illustration of the Lower Millyard plan this week that reflected adjustments that became necessary when plans to move the Carriage Museum building fell through.

Originally the city had hoped to move the antique brick building that houses the museum slightly to the southwest. The move would have allowed a sharp turn on Water Street to be realigned and straightened. The realignment would also have accommodated two new retail parcels that would’ve been adjacent to the parking deck and across the street from the new Heritage Park.

Moving the Carriage Museum building proved to be impossible, however, when Mayor Thatcher Kezer determined that there was no legal process by which the city and the museum could swap land without the city putting its land up for bid. The city would end up saving $300,000 by refurbishing the building and leaving it where it is, Kezer said.

Under the new plan, Water Street will be realigned around the museum building and over the spot where the new retail parcels were supposed to go. Instead, a single, larger commercial property is being planned near the Back River riverbank where a new parking lot had previously been planned.

Where the museum was supposed to move will now be a grassy events lawn, and to the south of that will be a concert area along the convergence of Back River and the Powow River. A gazebo planned to be right at the rivers’ fork is not included in the new illustration.

On the other side of the museum building, the previously planned concert pavilion has been modified into a water park with fountains, and the paths leading around the area have been somewhat modified.

Farther down Water Street toward the center of town, the plans remain largely unchanged. Dan Healey’s proposed expansion to the Carriage Mills office building is identical in both the old and new plans, and the Water Street parking deck expansion includes slightly more parking on the ground level but no other significant differences.

The new illustration reflects the most up-to-date Lower Millyard plan and is consistent with the funding currently being sought from the City Council. The council’s finance committee spent over two hours on Tuesday night discussing the merits of authorizing $725,000 to be spent on the construction of Heritage Park, but the committee adjourned without a vote when it got too late.

The council currently has four items directly related to the Heritage Park creation on its agenda that it is expected to address at its April 9 meeting.

First, the councilors must decide whether to accept a parcel of land at 25 Water St. being donated by Louis Lavoie, trustee of the Water Street Realty Trust, and Dan Healey, who owns the adjacent Carriage Mills office complex. Then they must vote on whether to dedicate that land as Heritage Park if they do accept it.

After that, the councilors will vote on whether to appropriate $725,000 in city funds to construct the park, and then whether to accept a $400,000 Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant that will reimburse a portion of that investment and bring Amesbury’s financial commitment to about $325,000.

If approved, Heritage Park will become the centerpiece of the newly revitalized Lower Millyard, and officials have said the park will help spur new development that could bring millions of dollars in new business to town.