NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 3, 2007

Third time not the charm for Newburyport waterfront

Click here to return to the Port in Progress Homepage

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

In early March 1989, Newburyport’s Board of Appeals awarded local developer Roger Foster the zoning variances he needed to build a hotel on the city’s central waterfront.

A leading opponent of the plan, City Councilor Laura Rowe, was asked for her reaction to the board’s ruling.

“We’ve lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war,” she replied.

She got that right.

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority’s third — and so far final — attempt to develop the central waterfront turned into a protracted war of attrition that, like the two previous efforts, ended in failure.

Even by Newburyport urban renewal standards, it was a lengthy process.

After a hotel-and-condominium development collapsed in 1985, the NRA went back to the drawing board. A new request for proposals was issued in 1986, and no fewer than nine development groups responded.

After a round of interviews in early 1987, the field was trimmed to four. A group headed by Roger Foster, who owned a number of buildings on State Street, was selected in September.

Foster’s original plan showed an 80-room hotel to the west of Market Landing Park and seven Federal-style commercial buildings to the east.

“It was without question the highest point in my career,” Foster said in a recent interview. “It was the beginning of the biggest business challenge I’ve ever faced.”

Obstacles started popping up almost immediately. Rowe and a number of other advocates of public access to the Merrimack River had formed the Committee for an Open Waterfront and succeeded in placing a series of nonbinding referendum questions about development on the November municipal election ballot.

While pro-development candidate Edward Molin handily won the mayoral election, the nonbinding referendum questions showed local voters to be overwhelmingly opposed to waterfront development. A “no development” option captured 75 percent of the votes. Voters defeated an option for a “hotel-and-mixed-use” package by a similar margin. A “hotel-only” option was also defeated, but by a somewhat smaller margin.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Port Pics
AP Video
US Trying to Verify Video of American's Killing FBI Director Addresses Ferguson Shooting in Utah Raw: Police at Scene of St. Louis Shooting Police: 2 Calif. Boys Planned School Shooting NOLA Police Chief Retires Amid Violent Crimes Lunch Bus Delivers Meals to Kids Out of School Water Bottles Recalled for Safety Researcher Testing On-Field Concussion Scanners Rockets Fired From Gaza, in Breach of Ceasefire Raw: Japanese Military Live Fire Exercise Police, Protesters Clash in Ferguson Independent Autopsy Reveals Michael Brown Wounds Nashville Embraces Motley Crue Obama: 'Time to Listen, Not Just Shout' Lawyer: Gov. Perry Indictment a 'Nasty Attack' Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Crosses Into Ukraine Iowa Man Builds Statue of a Golfer Out of Balls Assange Gets Cryptic About Leaving Embassy in UK Raw: Building Collapse in South Africa, 9 Dead Raw: Pope Francis Meets 'Comfort Women'
Special Features