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December 13, 2012

City to NRA: More expertise Assurances sought on waterfront project plans

NEWBURYPORT — City officials are recommending that the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority procure more technical expertise before it extends a Request for Proposals (RFP) to developers interested in creating two commercial structures and a park on the NRA’s riverfront land.

At the NRA’s regular meeting last night, Vice Chairman John Morris read a letter from Andy Port, director of municipal planning and development, who said that the city wants to be assured that NRA leaders are prepared to adhere “to the regulatory requirements for a project of this scope.”

Port wrote, “We suggest that prior to the issuance of an RFP, the NRA obtain the following additional services (to address the following), which will resolve any uncertainty that exists on specific elements of the project:”

Permitting obligations of the NRA.

Closeout obligations of the NRA.

Procurement obligations of the NRA.

Geotechnical assessment of the project site.

Morris, sitting in for absent Chairman James Shanley, said, “The city is suggesting steps to move the project forward, and we are in agreement in spirit.”

City Hall observers had expected the NRA to discuss its RFP last night, but Morris said it was not complete.

Instead, members reacted to the letter from Port, which they said they received about 5 p.m.

It appears that city officials want to make sure that the five-member voluntary board has enough technical expertise at hand to move forward on what could be a complicated project.

The NRA, which owns 4.2 acres along the riverfront, has announced its intention of improving parkland near the Merrimack River. To do that, it proposes to create two income-producing commercial buildings that they say will offer shops, restaurants and perhaps 30 to 35 condominium units.

Local historians say this property has been used by numerous polluting industries over the centuries, and significant research must be done relating to the quality of the soil.

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