, Newburyport, MA

April 3, 2013

Carriage Alliance to shed light on Lower Millyard plans

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — The Amesbury Carriage Alliance is hosting a public information session tonight to answer residents’ questions about the Lower Millyard redevelopment project.

The session will be held at the Costello Transportation Center at 7 p.m., and city officials will be on hand to provide details on the project in advance of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, when councilors are expected to vote on four proposals that would combine to establish the new Heritage Park and fund its creation.

Matt Sherrill, chairman of the Amesbury Carriage Alliance, said he expects the session to primarily focus on the financial aspects of the project, specifically its financing.

“Despite occasional media attention, the public is still very much unaware of how everything is being paid for,” Sherrill said in a press release announcing the event. “So we want to improve that awareness and help put their minds at ease.”

If the project is approved, city officials expect the new Heritage Park to become the centerpiece of a new, redeveloped area of the downtown. The area is currently an industrial eyesore, and Mayor Thatcher Kezer’s hope is that the effort will ultimately raise property values and reinvigorate the city like the Upper Millyard redevelopment did decades ago.

The Heritage Park proposal currently before the council, however, is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.

Last summer, the City Council approved a $5.9 million plan to relocate the public works garage to 39 South Hunt Road, which will allow its former building in the Lower Millyard to be demolished and open the door for the area to be redeveloped.

Now, there are four items before the City Council designed to move those efforts forward. The council must vote on whether to officially establish Heritage Park, whether it wants to authorize $725,000 to be spent on the park’s construction, whether to accept a $400,000 Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant that will reimburse a portion of the money spent and whether to accept a parcel of land on Water Street being donated by the Water Street Realty Trust. A massive Brownfield cleanup effort would be conducted in the Lower Millyard as well.

Dan Healey, who owns the Carriage Mills office complex on Water Street, has said he will build a 30,000-square-foot expansion to his property if the project is approved, and other property owners in the area have indicated they would be able to substantially improve their buildings.

Future portions of the project include a realigned Water Street, an expanded Water Street parking deck and a fully refurbished Carriage Museum building, which would become home to the Chamber of Commerce offices, the Carriage Museum, a new visitors center and new artist space.

The Carriage Alliance, which is a joint venture between the chamber and the Amesbury Carriage Museum, has been an ardent supporter of the project and has actively worked to spread the word about its details.

Last month, the alliance produced an informational video about the project narrated by School Committee member Peter Hoyt, and the Chamber of Commerce posted a page on its website dedicated to the project.