NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 14, 2013

Bennett calls for change in NRA plans

NEWBURYPORT — A major business owner on Water Street has entered the debate about the central waterfront by suggesting that bricks-and-mortar development take place not along the river but on 11 acres of available land near the Route 1 rotary.

Jacalyn Bennett, president of women’s lingerie and nighttime apparel manufacturer Bennett and Company, said she has met with Mayor Donna Holaday and other city officials to argue for open space on the riverfront and the creation of affordable housing on land currently owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority adjacent to the commuter rail line.

At issue is 4.2 waterfront acres owned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority. Though she has no official standing in the discussion about the waterfront’s future, she said she is urging all parties to find a compromise that includes the MBTA acreage.

“We can and should come together as a community,” Bennett said yesterday. “We do not need to make someone wrong in order to be right.”

Her search for compromise has resulted in photos, charts and specifics on how competing interests can achieve what they want.

She said that the NRA, whose initial tentative vision called for 30 to 35 condominiums, would have its opportunity to develop shops and residences on the 11 acres. The Committee for an Open Waterfront would realize its goal of keeping the acreage free from structures.

The NRA has full authority regarding what happens to the land. Members are currently waiting for test borings on the riverfront to determine the viability of developing structures there.

The NRA has been considering a tentative plan by Union Studio of Providence that would include shops, restaurants, public spaces and condominium units totaling about 70,000 square feet.

NRA members say the income generated by the development of commercial structures would enable the NRA to enlarge the current park by enhancing open space and saving some parking.

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