As we consider all the plans for development in Newburyport, let’s review certain quality of life issues that are raised by new enterprise in an exceptionally significant center of our city. We have some decisions to make about that now. Change is inevitable, development is going to happen, so what are the most important aspects of life in Newburyport that we cherish and what do we want to change.
I believe the city government and trusts, an ever-growing number of developers and local citizens must unite their visions for the best possible future to unfold for Newburyport. All of us have a stake in this.
The most pertinent issues that radiate from our newest developers’ plans are No. 1, traffic and No. 2, parking. First, parking: Where will customers park for a new 591-seat capacity restaurant and the new hotel, plus existing Black Cow restaurant? Employees for these businesses alone will overflow the Waterfront Trust parking lot outside Davis Auto and the present Black Cow parking. Customers would easily fill over two-thirds of the Green Street parking lot.
Parking spaces are to be seriously considered because Mr. Karp is not willing to provide parking for his proposed businesses and future proposed businesses in town, and Mr. Leone wants to take up existing parking for his proposed landscaping plus rezone whatever parking is left available close by. He is asking the city to rezone the parking so it will be given to him. He will not have to pay for parking for the new ale house, but we will.
The second issue, traffic: All the currently proposed major development sits between the Route 1 exit and entrance ramps on Merrimac Street on one side, and Market Square on the other side. A traffic bottleneck already exists in this area during rush hour and on festival and summer weekends. Unless there is an overall plan for traffic remediation, proposed businesses and condos and the parking needed for them, it would change completely and forever smooth traffic flow from Route 1 through Market Square. We need to hear about the bigger plan, the overall picture of traffic flow and parking spaces, and how this is all going to improve the quality of life of Newburyport citizens.
Without envisioning a bigger plan, it is easy to paint a worse-case scenario. More stop lights could be added on Merrimac Street, traffic could back up on the Route 1 ramps, and cars could crowd the road from one parking lot to another (East lot, West lot and Green Street lot) during certain hours and seasons. The confluence of Merrimac Street, Water Street and Green Street and Market Square could at times become its own parking lot.
I walk on the waterfront often and around the old buildings and parking lots. I cannot figure out how our quality of life will be enhanced by all the motor traffic, the lack of safe pedestrian access to the river and the loss of historic view sites, spoiled forever.
While change can be good, it is time we all hear about improvements to our quality of life in Newburyport. Before I jump on the development bandwagon, I need to know how parking and traffic flow will be handled, especially in preparation for still more commercial buildings and condos proposed by the NRA, and for Mr. Karp’s looming development after that.
I hope that the city and new developers show us a comprehensive plan that addresses access issues as we move through town, and quality of life considerations for the people who live here. Otherwise, we don’t know what we are voting for, and we don’t know what we are in for.
David Dylewski lives in Newburyport.