, Newburyport, MA


October 29, 2013

Our view: Time for NRA to consider disbanding


At the same time, the NRA has taken on a far more aggressive political stance in the city — hiring a public relations firm, sending out thousands of fliers and working with its grass-roots supporters to drum up citizen support.

The NRA board is aware this is a hard sell. Last week its chairman, Tom Salemi, echoed a position that aligned more or less with Mayor Donna Holaday — that the NRA would be amenable to getting rid of an underground parking garage and residential condos. Yet the NRA’s own study shows that the residential condos are essential to the project’s financial success. By bits and pieces, the plan is coming undone.

The problem for the NRA is it is held to a 1960s standard that has been turned on its ear in 2013 Newburyport. No one in the 1960s foresaw that waterfront parcels surrounding the NRA land would be bought up by a commercial developer — Steve Karp — who has the ability and land to create the kind of development that the NRA was tasked to accomplish. No one foresaw the city’s wealth and economy rebounding without any need for hotels and condos on the NRA’s prime land. No one envisioned such a change in the viewpoints and priorities of Newburyporters.

The NRA can’t really “end” its mission without developing its land in some way, and generating enough revenue to create the park and finished parking that the public wants.

Perhaps the best solution is to look at the NRA land absent the NRA’s mission. What do Newburyporters want to see on that land, and who can accomplish it? More than likely, that goal would be better realized if the city owned the land, and the people of the city had a direct say in its future by leaving the land’s fate in the hands of the mayor and City Council.

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