, Newburyport, MA

Local News

August 13, 2007

Second effort to develop waterfront failed

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series on the waterfront’s development.

It was probably doomed from the start.

It took four years, but the second effort to develop the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority’s central waterfront ultimately succumbed to economic recession and popular opposition to a key element of the plan.

With the resolution of the 8-year-old “wayes to the waterfront” lawsuit, Newburyport geared up for development of its Merrimack River frontage, looking to expand its horizons beyond what had been traditionally thought of as the central waterfront.

In the fall of 1979, Mayor Richard Sullivan initiated the process by appointing an ad hoc group called the Waterfront Commission to assemble a plan not just for the parcel controlled by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, but all the land between the Route 1 bridge and the Coast Guard station.

The commission engaged Boston-based consultant Sy Mintz. After a nearly six-month study, Mintz delivered a plan that proposed a 150-room hotel and conference center on property adjacent to the central waterfront, where the Oldies flea market is now.

On the easterly side of the waterfront, the plan placed up to four buildings, all perpendicular to the river, with retail shops on the ground floors and residences on the upper two stories. The westerly side of the waterfront would contain a federally funded visitors’ center and an enlarged embayment.

The Market Square fire station, which was being vacated by the Fire Department for a new building on Greenleaf Street, would be converted into an arts center and restaurant.

The so-called “Mintz Plan,” unveiled with great fanfare in August 1980, ran into opposition from owners who feared the city could take their property by eminent domain, as the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority had done with downtown buildings during the early stages of urban renewal.

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