, Newburyport, MA


October 4, 2013

On NRA land, cars are the problem

To the editor:

To develop the NRA lots it’s not the NRA against the COW, it’s the NRA and the COW against the car. You read it correctly; the NRA and the COW are on the same side. If the car didn’t exist, there would be almost no contention.

A fundamental and unique strength of Newburyport is its walkability. We use this strength to attract businesses, homebuyers and tourists.

Anytime you start a development project in the city with the question, “Yeh, but where am I going to park my car?” the development is headed in the wrong direction. This is a good question to start with if you are going to build a mall. If we give the car too high a priority in downtown development, we are tearing down our own fundamental, unique, competitive strength.

If you took all of the buildings out of the city and started from scratch, it would be impossible to recreate what we have today.

That’s because most of the core of the city was settled long before the automobile, just like Rome. The myriad of current rules would not allow you to easily rebuild the gem that we have.

Look at the Unions Studios plan with the full buildings in place on the NRA lots. Now take a green pencil and shade most of the parking lots green. You would have a walkable and active spot that was pedestrian focused. It would be a world-class draw and similar to many European cities.

I can hear the naysayers now, “It’ll never work.” You always get this when you are trying to shift a paradigm, and there are few paradigms as dear as the rights of the automobile.

When my friend James Shanley was on the City Council, he told me, “There is no faster way to irritate your constituents than to tell them what they can do with their car!” So there it is.

Some people fuss when they have to walk 10 feet from their parking spot. My point is that if you build something phenomenally unique, maybe you can get them to walk 50 feet before they fuss.

When it comes to developing the NRA lots, it truly is the NRA and the COW against the car.

Jim McCarthy


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