, Newburyport, MA


July 20, 2013

POWER to the people

I’m beginning to sense the need for a new pubic advocacy organization which, tongue firmly planted in cheek, I have dubbed POWER (Protect Our Waterfront from Erroneous Redevelopment). Right now it seems it would be an organization of only one (myself), but I hope others would be drawn to the cause. We would advocate for certain principles to govern the waterfront design, opposite those being followed by the NRA, yet different from COW’s regarding development. Together we would help to shape a more powerful vision of what the waterfront could become.

Principle No. 1: Keep the waterfront in the public’s hands, solely for public benefit, now and forever.

If I were a real estate developer, I would be salivating over the NRA’s plans to turn over significant parcels of the central waterfront to private developers. Who wouldn’t want exclusive private access to such prime (and extremely rare) waterfront real estate? Our waterfront is a priceless public asset, one we would be foolish to carve into pieces to sell to the highest bidder. No matter what price received, it would not be enough.

I’m not against any development whatsoever, only that which takes what is available for public use and makes it private. Hence Principle No. 1.

Principle No. 2: Preserve the open, airy feel.

To their credit, NRA revised their proposed design to respond to one of the objections that has been raised, namely the encroachment on existing parkland along the west parking lot. But standing on the rescued spot and seeing the footprint and height of the proposed buildings, I felt a visceral shock — a claustrophobic reaction to such a massive structure right in front of me. Union Studio believes that enclosing the park with three-story brick structures on three sides is a good thing. I disagree, and think that doing so completely changes the sense of space from a light, expansive feeling to a subdued, confining one.

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