By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — Amid concern that the public sector is shouldering too much of the financial burden with the Lower Millyard project, the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce is holding a private fundraiser next week to get local businesses into the game.
The Amesbury Carriage Alliance, which consists of members of the Chamber and the Amesbury Carriage Museum, will be hosting area businesses, banks and public officials next Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Amesbury Sports Park to present the latest Lower Millyard developments and to push private sector support.
“We’re inviting banks, the board of directors from the Chamber and the City Council, department heads, all to this event to let them know where we’re at with this piece,” said Melissa LaChance, the Chamber director. “The Carriage Alliance, has invested $600,000 in that building, the Carriage Museum.”
LaChance said all money raised at tonight’s event would go toward the Amesbury Carriage Museum building, which is being moved and overhauled as part of the Lower Millyard project.
The existing building is going to be physically lifted up and moved slightly back to accommodate the realignment of Water Street. Because the new location is within a flood zone, it will also be moved up onto a new, higher foundation so that the building is not vulnerable to flooding.
After that, the plan is to move Water Street so that it runs through the existing site of the museum and DPW once both structures are out of the way.
Once the building is on its new foundation, it will be set up so that the first floor will house the Amesbury Visitor’s Center and Chamber office, the second floor will house the Carriage Museum and the third floor will house artist studios.
LaChance said there has been a lot of interest in all three uses, and she believes it will be a nice collaboration once the project is done.
“It’s just trying to reconnect with everybody to let them know where we’re at,” LaChance said. “That we’re applying for grant money, and now with the DPW moved out, that was an expense and this is an investment.”
There has been much discussion over how the Lower Millyard project will be funded, along with a lot of consternation from residents who are upset about the city’s tax rate and don’t want to spend any more money.
Amesbury has already secured roughly $1 million in state and federal funds for cleanup work, the boat launch, the museum and the new Heritage Park. More funds are being sought for the Water Street realignment and parking deck expansion, and officials hope events like next week’s fundraiser will help bring in greater private investment to support the city’s efforts.
“We’re hoping to have a big turnout and have lots of checks being written,” LaChance said.