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September 13, 2012

New plan for Newburyport waterfront unveiled

NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority last night unveiled a tentative outline for changing the look of the central riverfront, with planners envisioning more green space and two commercial buildings — and the retention of up to 70 percent of existing parking spots.

The proposal was created by Union Studio, a professional architectural firm in Providence, which has been retained by the NRA to create a new approach to acreage adjacent to Market Landing Park.

The NRA controls 4.2 acres, with about 2.1 acres on each side of the grassy, sloping park.

NRA leaders say they want to offer more commercial and recreational opportunities on the river side of Merrimac Street, which they say is part of the historical narrative of the city. At present, most of the NRA land is used for parking.

They envision coffee shops, restaurants and retail shops on the ground floor of each building, and residential units on the upper two floors.

One building would be on each side of the Firehouse, and would be limited in height to that of the Firehouse — about 35 feet.

The overall square footage of the two buildings would be about 70,000 feet, said Donald Powers, founder and principal of Union Studio. Structures would not be the same size, and might accommodate 30-35 living units.

Planners say that offering shops, restaurants and coffee shops would enable the community to enjoy views and activity along the river in the coldest months of the year.

The plan that Powers put together proposes to add grass and trees to the areas within 100 feet or so of the waterfront that currently serve as parking lots, and would enlarge green space by about 30 percent. The buildings would be close to the street to enhance the amount of open space along the water, planners said.

City officials say that the combined parking area now can accommodate about 370 cars, and the new alignment would have room for about 250 vehicles. A parking study is currently under way to ensure enough parking spots are retained.

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