, Newburyport, MA

October 15, 2013

World-class vision for the waterfront

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

A different vision for the waterfront presents less parking and zero residential development on the NRA-controlled parcels. Existing parking on Waterfront Trust land should remain for Brown’s Wharf, the handicapped and the elderly. It’s been asked before — why give automobiles the best view in town?

So where would the vehicles go? How about a parking garage at the foot of Green Street on 30 percent of the current lot (across from the police station)? Depending on the allowed height (three or four stories) this garage could provide 300-plus/minus spaces while keeping the rest of the Green Street lot intact.

Regarding design of the waterfront I suggest using guidelines developed by the Project for Public Spaces. Check out ( How to Transform a Waterfront. They list several principles which I find simple, meaningful and relevant to our situation — see if you agree:

Make public goals the primary objective. The best solutions for waterfronts put public goals first, not short-term financial expediency. (Was New York’s Central Park built subject to development revenue?) As long as plans adhere to the notion that the waterfront is a public asset, then many of the following steps can be pursued successfully.

Create a shared community vision for the waterfront is self-explanatory.

Optimize public access. It is essential that the waterfront be accessible for people’s use. The goal of continuity is of paramount importance. Waterfronts with continuous public access are more desirable than those where public space is interrupted. Even small stretches where the waterfront is unavailable to the public greatly diminish the experience.

Ensure that development fits the community vision. Waterfronts are too valuable to allow developers to dictate terms of growth and change. Whatever is built must contribute to the goals set forth by the community. Development should never interfere with pedestrian connections, making parking lots and auto-oriented development out of the question.

Design and program buildings to engage the public space. Any building on the waterfront should add to the activity of the public space around it. I am not confident I know what the current proposal includes but I for one want zero residential development and little to no parking on the NRA parcels (think Boston Common).

Integrate seasonal activities. Waterfronts that can thrive in year-round conditions will reap the benefits of greater economic activity and higher attendance. A year-round park with convenient parking will increase tourist revenue for local businesses. A parking garage will provide a revenue stream for the city.

Portsmouth, N.H., has a parking garage downtown within walking distance to everything. We as a community should seriously consider building a garage and get parking off the waterfront (does anyone remember Rowe’s Wharf or Northern Avenue Boston?). If we can build schools worth tens of millions of dollars, surely we can build a parking garage and a world-class waterfront park that would be the pride of the city for generations to come.

Ken Woods