, Newburyport, MA

January 22, 2013

NRA should put plans on hold

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority has a long and distinguished history. Regrettably, that history is distinguished for the number of times that the NRA has wanted to lead Newburyport off in the wrong direction.

In the 1960s, the goal was to destroy the downtown and to build a shopping center. A group of citizens fought this concept until the NRA agreed to the notion of restoring the downtown and creating the one we all enjoy today.

In the 1970s, the NRA wanted to build on every square inch of the land that it owned on the waterfront. Another group of citizens fought this issue for nearly a decade until the NRA agreed to rethink the plan.

In the 1980s, the NRA was so determined to have a hotel built on the waterfront that it gave the Firehouse to a developer as an inducement to build. That plan failed and Newburyport was lucky to get the Firehouse back. Today, we enjoy both a theater and waterfront park. No thanks to the NRA, which resisted the change as long as it could.

Today, there are plans to build both a hotel and a very large restaurant in the downtown area. Both will create increased demand for parking. Mr. Karp will not be building his hotel in a vacuum. Once the hotel is in place, the development of his waterfront property will quickly follow. Parking demand will increase again. Even if I were in favor of the NRA’s building plan, I would caution the board to wait until the impact of the upcoming private projects could be understood and evaluated.

Throughout the United States, cities and towns are working hard to recapture open space along their rivers, lakes, and harbor fronts.

Why in the world are we, who are fortunate enough to have an open waterfront even if it came about as the result of much conflict, making an effort to build a 70,000-square-foot building on space we will greatly miss in the immediate future.

Please NRA, use your good sense and sound judgement and put a hold on this current plan. Condominiums on the waterfront can be built anytime. Let us make sure that this is what Newburyport needs after the full impact of the Karp project is understood. You do after all want to do what is best for our future, don’t you?