NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

November 13, 2012

'West waterfront' may see parking crisis

The western end of Newburyport’s waterfront is in for a significant transition within the next few years — that is, of course, if current plans on the table become reality.

Let’s assume that these plans happen. In that case, the question is whether the parking available in that area can handle the influx of people in the summer months. We have doubts that it can, unless the long-promised Titcomb Street parking garage finally comes online.

The western end of the waterfront is a part of the city that for decades has stood apart from the downtown proper. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was envisioned as a component of a revitalized waterfront. But the main focus of redevelopment would be to the east, on the waterfront land behind Water Street.

Things didn’t happen that way. Much of the NRA land became a dirt parking lot. The western fringe of the waterfront followed its own path, with notable successes such as Michael’s Harborside Restaurant, the Black Cow and the revitalized Hudson building. Plans for a completely redeveloped “Waterfront West” between those two restaurants are still in limbo. As things have happened, parking at this end of the city seems to fit the relatively night needs of what is there.

But now, it appears that the redevelopment focus has evolved and changed. The nucleus of development has shifted to the west waterfront, in an area that hadn’t been envisioned in the past.

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority’s latest plan for its parcels is constructing two buildings, one on the western edge of its property and another on the westernmost part of its east parcel. Both include a restaurant, retail and residential units. The current number of NRA parking spaces will be cut roughly in half.

Next to that western NRA parcel, the Black Cow’s Joseph Leone is planning a restaurant in the former Davis Auto Parts building. With a little over 400 seats, it will be one of the largest restaurants in Newburyport.

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NRA Waterfront Plans