, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 19, 2013

foster floats new plan

Former NRA developer suggests transfer of building rights off waterfront

NEWBURYPORT — A developer who once was a key player in the future of this city’s waterfront has emerged with a suggestion for use of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority’s acreage along the Merrimack River.

Roger Foster, who still lives in Newburyport, has written a public letter to The Daily News (see page 4) that suggests that the NRA use its “transfer of development rights” to create property value away from the waterfront.

He suggests that money generated from off-water development would be large enough to develop a park on the waterfront, and endow it “forever.”

Foster — whose Foster Properties Ltd. became active in development in the city in the late 1970s — said that “within the bundle of rights the NRA holds with its waterfront property, there are two valuable assets: its land and its right to develop the land.”

He said, “The value of the TDR (transfer of development rights) is quantifiable and could be granted in many forms: assigned to designated areas like the Route 1 traffic circle, the industrial park, allocated to affordable housing or sold to one or more developers.

“Ultimately, there are many possibilities, determined by the will of the people and written into the city’s laws.”

Foster’s firm, which renovated five buildings on State Street, from Market Square to the Phoenix Building, during its heyday, was designated in 1987 as the NRA’s chosen developer for its 4.2 acres of riverfront land.

However, Foster’s proposal in the 1990s to develop a waterfront hotel ultimately was not approved after several years of appeals and legal challenges. It is said he lost a significant amount of money in his effort to create the hotel, but many residents were resolute in their opposition to such a commercial development.

The five-member NRA has sole discretion in determining how its land is used, though any proposal it makes will have to be approved by appropriate municipal boards.

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