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July 5, 2013

Parking an issue with new NRA plan

NEWBURYPORT — Discussion of proposed expansion of a park on the central waterfront has ushered in discussion of a closely connected theme: parking.

Meanwhile, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority’s recent revisions of its tentative plan call for three buildings rather than two, and it has made other moderate changes.

About 70,000 square feet of space is anticipated in the trio of structures, with shops, a restaurant and residential units. Estimated cost of the project is $20 million, according to Adam Guild, NRA treasurer.

But numerous steps must be taken before construction can begin.

NRA members say that test borings will start in several weeks to determine whether the land is appropriate for construction.

If the borings are deemed acceptable, a Request for Proposals will be extended to developers and bankers, perhaps in the autumn.

NRA officials say the concept provided by Union Studio is not binding. However, it appears to be the outline of what would be discussed with bidders.

Meanwhile, some residents and municipal leaders are looking into whether there will be enough parking near the water.

Because much development is envisioned for the area adjacent to the central waterfront, the idea of developing a parking garage has been among the most oft-discussed possibilities for adding more spaces.

When the NRA Saturday unveiled its revised plan for its 4.2 riverfront acres on the river, NRA members acknowledged that the number of parking spaces in its two lots will drop from 336 to 172. The prior plan reduced the parking spaces to 191.

Also, the proposed Ale House at the corner of Green and Merrimac streets is moving toward final municipal approvals. If the 442-seat bar-restaurant does open, the demand for more parking will increase, city officials say.

The concern for more parking is not new. In the spring of 2010, city officials were considering two sites for a parking garage, at the Green Street parking lot and on Titcomb Street, along Merrimac Street.

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