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July 1, 2013

NRA changes plan

Opposition remains as adjusted waterfront proposal is unveiled

NEWBURYPORT — Officials of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority Saturday unveiled a “revised” master plan for the central waterfront, but there was no change in attitude by many who listened: Significant opposition still exists.

The new configuration offers three buildings rather than two, but still envisions about 70,000 square feet of buildings.

And the new tentative plan calls for more grassy areas, better bike paths and improved parking.

No action was taken, but the meeting appeared to be an opportunity for the NRA to assert that it has made changes as a result of resident feedback.

More than a dozen members of the Committee for an Open Waterfront carried placards urging no construction, and more asked probing questions. Other opponents were also present.

However, many listeners appeared to be supporters of some commercial development there.

The morning session started in the Firehouse Center for the Arts and moved outside to the adjacent parking lots so visitors could get a sense of where the three buildings would be sited.

The NRA owns 4.2 acres on the riverfront, much of it now used for parking.

A plan to develop anything on the property has been stagnant in recent months, but NRA members Saturday said that MassDevelopment, a quasi-state agency supporting the NRA, has approved a grant of about $16,000 to be put toward the cost of soil test borings. The borings will determine what is in the soil; the site was for centuries a seafaring commercial area, and large amounts of fill have been dumped over the years.

The news that borings analysis will start soon appears to be a step forward for the five-member NRA.

“We have learned that we have a grant, and we have contracted with a local engineering firm to do the work,” said Adam Guild, treasurer of the NRA. “Borings can start in two to three weeks.”

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