NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

August 15, 2013

A COW response to NRA supporter

To the editor:

Michelle Piotrowski’s letter (Aug. 9) makes several comments that need discussion. She feels that a few NRA buildings of similar scale and appearance to other downtown buildings are OK, without apparently realizing that the proposed three NRA buildings would be individually wider and longer than most existing buildings.

She says that she likes the idea of shops and restaurants to draw more people to the waterfront, without noting that such shops and restaurants would likely draw people away from existing businesses on State and Pleasant streets. Nothing in NRA’s proposal makes it likely that we will experience a net increase in the number of Newburyport customers — just a rearrangement of their distribution.

Ms. Piotrowski says that she is OK with NRA’s planned loss of 145 parking spaces (and their revenue), but also wants to enjoy the waterfront as she goes about her daily life. My question to her is: Where does she plan to park? COW supports expanding the waterfront park and keeping as many parking spaces as needed while the city creates long-term parking solutions.

And COW’s proposal is not to keep the unsightly, inefficient dirt parking lots. It is to create several landscaped, compartmentalized, flexible-use parking lots that could be: built as a unit or a phased development program, used for functions other than parking, and removed incrementally at a later date if future generations want more park.

Regarding building and maintenance costs, COW’s base concept is relatively inexpensive and consists primarily of grass, trees and flexible use parking lots. No money need be spent on wide walkways and driveways to support NRA condos and businesses.

Annual parking revenues are currently sufficient to begin the park expansion and parking improvements right now. We could begin next spring rather than enduring two or three years of noise and construction trucks on Water and Merrimac streets. In the meantime, COW members would write proposals to private and public granting agencies for the NRA and help get the additional money needed to upgrade the parking lots. Presto, we get an expanded park, prettier and more useful parking lots, and an open public waterfront with no view-blocking condos.

So we say again, “Don’t let ‘em sell, don’t let ‘em build.” Above all, remember that communities across the country are spending millions to recover their lost waterfronts; all we have to do is save and improve on the one we have.

Lon Hackmeister

Newbury

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