, Newburyport, MA

May 21, 2013

What do you value?

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Can you imagine the towns of Lexington and Concord selling off central portions of their historic commons to a condo developer? Or Boston selling central portions of the Boston Gardens and Swan Pond area for shops and residences to a condo developer?

Or Marblehead selling off the Fort Sewall waterfront park? Why would Newburyport?

Our port side 4.2 acres is the riverside door to a significant maritime history and to “the finest example of Federal mercantile architecture in the country.” It is listed on The National Register of Historic Places and as a Massachusetts historic district. Restoration funding has followed Newburyport’s unique place in our country’s colonial history and maritime prosperity. Four court cases have established this area as a public park with landscaped parking, because people have stood up and protected this national heritage.

Now the five members of the NRA with the backing of the mayor see this heritage as value-less, an opportunity to sell and develop 70,000 square feet, 64 units of retail and residential condominiums, to build two massive structures. One on the west side would be the largest building in the downtown (more massive than Mercantile Place), blocking all but tunnel views of the water, selling landscaped park and parking for private use (130 fewer parking spaces for starters), adding some grass to the berm area (because it is required by state tidelands law, chapter 91), building on areas of present open parkland.

This is a question of value. What do you value?

Real authentic maritime history with public open space abutting fine restored shops?

Or private, high-end condos above a shopping mall?

The heedless NRA-proposed development concept is not an economic money pump. Sixty-four new residents will cost the city roughly $171,584 after their property taxes are deducted.

There is an economic loss from the additional city services, school costs.

Once the waterfront is sold or leased, it is gone forever.

Joanie Purinton