NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 19, 2013

In Newburyport, parking questions resurface

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — The central waterfront has consumed much of the municipal imagination in recent weeks but now the corner of Merrimac and Titcomb streets is emerging as a new hotspot.

City Hall officials have acknowledged that New England Development, the company headed by developer Stephen Karp, is planning an 86-room hotel in the area where the Fitness Factory once operated. His company owns several parcels there along Merrimac Street.

Indeed, executives have showed sketches of the proposed hotel not only to municipal leaders, but to some merchants in that area.

And Mayor Donna Holaday recently noted that a public-private parking building is moving forward in the planning process.

The “private” entity here is New England Development.

So it appears that City Hall and Karp executives are in close contact, even if New England Development’s leaders’ silence on the matter might be characterized by the term “omerta.”

The revelation that the parking garage is back on the table arrives at a moment where an increasing number of local folks are asking the same question, “What about parking?”

The borings that were taken recently limited the use of the riverfront parking lots owned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority.

And last week’s one-day shutdown of the Green Street parking area led numerous motorists — and merchants — to wonder, “What’s going to happen when they start building?”

Holaday said that at least 150 parking spots will be lost, if and when the proposed NRA structures are built.

And with the proposed 442-seat Ale House at the corner of Merrimac and Green streets moving forward in the permitting process, more questions about adequate parking are being raised.

But for those who do not want to envision a future fraught with doom, here is a thought: Holaday seems to be working closely with the Karp team, attending meetings and planning sessions with New England Development executives.

So there seems to be a Larger Plan when it comes to the hotel-parking garage project.

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The Waterfront Trust is becoming increasingly impatient with “slack-liners” in the riverside park.

These are teens who drape a line between trees (or a buoy and tree), and walk a tightrope a few feet above the lawn.

Charlie Nichols, park manager, has complained of refuse and debris left by young people, and damage to trees. Waterfront Trust chairman Doug Locy has talked of having signs made to direct the teens to the other side of the park.

“We had fun, too, when we were young, but it was in front of Taffy’s,” Trust member Joe Brown recently remarked.

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On other topics, Dick Sullivan Jr. is calling for a debate among the three candidates running for mayor in the Sept. 17 primary. And Jared Eigerman, running for the Ward 2 councilor position, has also urged city organizations to come forward to host a discussion of the issues.

City councilors took no action last week on a motion to name harbormaster Paul Hogg as shellfish constable. It would come with an annual stipend of $2,500. State law requires that coastal communities retain such a supervisor so it does appear that this measure will have to retrieved from committee at some point.

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The following meetings are scheduled for this week and are open to the public:

Tonight

School Committee, 7:30 p.m., high school, 241 High St.

Tuesday

Finance Subcommittee of the Whole School committee, 4 p.m., 70 Low St.

Conservation Commission, 6:30 p.m., police station conference room, 4 Green St.

Wednesday

Board of Water Commissioners, 5:30 p.m., 16A Perry Way

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, 7 p.m., City Hall auditorium

Planning Board, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers, City Hall

Thursday

Historical Commission, 7:30 p.m., City Council Chambers, City Hall

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Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3226 or at dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.