NEWBURYPORT — It appears that less is more when it comes to the Inn Street Lighting and Brick Turret Restoration Project.
Construction crews in recent weeks have been working to enhance the look of the popular in-town pedestrian mall, and they are doing so by reducing the size of some long-standing landmarks.
For instance, the height of a trio of brick "turrets" — the brick structures that had been built around three stairwells — has been cut in half. Merchants, residents and visitors had complained that the turrets were capable of hiding the activity of those interested in illegal drinking and/or drug use.
The turrets had completely blocked from view all activity inside the stairwells. Now, the stairwells are mostly open, with metal railings replacing the majority of what had been a solid brick wall. The stairways lead to a second story walkway that provides access into the rear of several buildings that front on State Street.
With the height of the turrets reduced by about half, the new versions will likely enhance the transparency of activity in the area.
"I'm very pleased the project is under way, and we can expect a better park," said Mayor Donna Holaday. "It was created years ago, and was ready for improvement."
The park was conceived about four decades ago, when pioneers of the refurbished downtown helped create a public space that would draw both local families and curious visitors.
The tree-lined park includes a playground for youngsters, benches for adults and broad brick walkways for shoppers and tourists.
In recent years the bricks on the walkways have become displaced and the lights that illuminated shady areas fell into disrepair.
Right now, numerous lighting fixtures are being repaired.
"I think that improving the lighting will help a great deal," said Katy O'Connor Ives, a city councilor who lives in that part of the city.
"More lighting will cut down on the crime by people who sometimes congregate there, and more light will also bring visitors who want to see the city."
In addition to calling for smaller turrets and improved lighting, city officials would like to remove a concrete siding adjacent to the (second-floor) Phoenix Room and replace it with iron railings.
Planning Director Andy Port said that period railings would highlight the beauty of the architecture.
"We're working on the electrical systems so we can improve the lighting, and we're looking at metal railings on the walkway," said Port.
"We also want to put a fountain in again, and we've applied to the Community Preservation Committee for funding. It was time for this area to be improved."
Support for the restoration has come from several organizations, including the city, the Community Preservation Fund, the Downtown Parking Program and the Inn Street Electric Capital Account.