, Newburyport, MA

NRA Waterfront Plans

September 17, 2007

Parcel 8: Urban renewal's only new building


On Sept. 21, 1972, then-Mayor Byron Matthews and other city officials traveled to Washington to discuss the situation with Sens. Edward Brooke and Edward Kennedy, and Congressman Michael Harrington.

That same day, HUD sent a telegram to the NRA, instructing the authority not to convey the land to the developer "until further notice."

But the very next day, in apparent defiance of the HUD directive, Matthews ordered a building permit issued to Merrimack and Atlantic Corp. Excavation of the building's foundation began soon afterward.

A "Preliminary Determination of Adversity" report was issued by the National Advisory Council on Sept. 26 and forwarded to HUD, which asked the council to discuss the matter further. The council scheduled a hearing in Washington in mid-November.

The Friends of the Waterfront attempted without success to obtain a court order halting work on the site.

After two days of hearings, the National Advisory Council issued a final report, finding the Parcel 8 design "incompatible" with the neighboring historic district.

The report put the ball back in HUD's court and, in January 1973, the department advised the NRA to "reduce the incompatibility."

In April, the authority agreed to draw up an environmental impact statement on the project and ordered construction stopped until the report was completed. Officials of Merrimack and Atlantic told the authority they would have to "re-examine" their participation in the project.

The site remained a large hole in the ground for more than a year. In July 1974, it was filled in.

After repeated inquiries to Merrimack and Atlantic, asking for clarification of its status as developer, the NRA finally "de-designated" the company on Jan. 8, 1976.

Parcel 8 became an auxiliary parking area next to the 212-space Green Street Municipal Lot.

Next week: Part 2 of this story.

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