NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

NRA Waterfront Plans

September 12, 2012

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority: A timeline

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority has been in existence since the early 1960s, charged with restoring the city's historic downtown and redeveloping its waterfront.

The downtown restoration was a success, but the waterfront has been a different story. There have been numerous attempts to develop the land, all unsuccessful.

Today the NRA has 4.2 acres on 2 separate lots -- the so-called East Lot and West Lot, located on either side of the city's waterfront park. Both NRA lots are used for parking.

Here's a timeline of key events in the NRA's efforts to develop its land.  

1968: The NRA takes over 9 acres on the Central Waterfront by eminent domain. Over two dozen buildings on the Central Waterfront are demolished to make way for development.

1971: NRA receives 4 proposals to develop waterfront with a marina, small inn, restaurants, shops, and housing.

1972: NRA chooses a design. Opposition is immediately raised to the plan, primarily because it blocked water access and public views of the water. Within a few months, the plan is withdrawn. A group called Friends of the Newburyport Waterfront forms; among its leaders are local real estate agent Joan Purinton and lawyer Bill Harris. 

1972 -1977: Friends of the Newburyport Waterfront sues NRA over several issues. The key waterfront issue is the status of 11 public "wayes to the waterfront" that cross through the NRA's land. The wayes are old roads that extended from Water and Merrimac streets to the Merrimack River.

1977: The strip of NRA land that directly fronts on the river is redeveloped into a boardwalk

1978: Friends case goes to trial. Friends lose in state Land Court, and appeal to state Appeals Court.

1979: Mayor Richard Sullivan appoints group to come up with plan for NRA land and adjoining private lands. A plan to build a 150-room hotel, conference center and several other buildings is unveiled. The plan creates much fanfare, but eventually fades away. 

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NRA Waterfront Plans

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