It is time to recognize the half-truths and deceptions of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority and Union Studios in their plan, labeled “concept,” for marketing our Central Waterfront. Yes, marketing; selling or leasing long term to a developer who will build two massive three-story buildings of 70,000 square feet occupied by condos and retail shops. The building on the west side of the Firehouse is proposed to be about 250 to 300 feet long by 50 feet wide by 45 feet high, as tall as the Firehouse roof. The east side building is about 150 feet long by 50 feet wide. A football field is 300 feet long and 150 feet wide. The combined bulk of these two proposed buildings is close to one-half of a football field.
The west side proposed building is not in scale with the existing downtown buildings, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “the best preserved examples of Federal Mercantile Architecture in the country.” The belief that the proposed buildings are in scale with the existing buildings in the central business district is repeated over and over by the misguided members of the NRA, who also claim they are giving us an expanded park, when the proposed western building will actually be sited on what is now existing grassy parkland.
The parklands that the NRA claims to be giving Newburyport near the boardwalk are not a gift, but state-mandated. Chapter 91 rules and regulations for tidelands development require that any new buildings dedicate 50 percent to water-dependent uses, i.e., waterfront parks, pedestrian walkways and open space. A 100 foot-buffer setback from the river is not to be built upon.
The slick Union Studio presentation of two massive new buildings provided a deceptive disguise for the bulk of the buildings by showing masses of 25-year-old cheery trees in bloom with distorted bird’s-eye views of the structures from a helicopter’s perspective.