, Newburyport, MA


April 14, 2014

Pressing issues on Port's waterfront

Two waterfront-related items in last week’s news regarding Newburyport caught our eye as issues to comment on.

There’s quite a building being proposed for the waterfront, and no, it’s not being pushed by a local developer. It’s being proposed by the city, more or less.

The harbormaster’s “shack” is going to be replaced with a building more than twice as large in every dimension. It will have twice the square footage, it will have a second floor, and it will be much higher off the ground in order to satisfy federal flood map standards.

It’s a mere shadow of the size of the buildings proposed by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, but it is located right on the river’s edge, at a prominent spot in the open field of vision extending seaward from the boardwalk and NRA land.

The Daily News has long supported efforts to expand access to the Merrimack River, and certainly the expansion of the harbormaster’s shack plays into this. The plan would include bathing and showering facilities for boaters.

However, this is yet another indication of how diffused the city’s plans for its waterfront are. There are three public entities — the Harbor Commission, the NRA and the Waterfront Trust — that have varying degrees of control over various pieces of land. They act independently, and we are left with a hodgepodge of actions that may make sense on an isolated piece of the waterfront, but not the waterfront as a whole.

In this case, would it not be better to limit the amount of building on the waterfront and find another place to build public facilities? Perhaps on a section of the NRA’s land, closer to the downtown, in a place where public facilities could be centralized?

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