, Newburyport, MA

Port in Progress

March 19, 2007

An unwelcome glimpse of the future

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It was a wake-up call.

In the summer of 1964, Newburyport's urban renewal program began to change when local people got a good look at the changes that were planned for their hometown.

The city had signed on to the federal urban renewal program in 1961. Urban renewal at the time emphasized "slum clearance" and Newburyport's central business district certainly fit the definition of slum, with its many vacant, boarded up buildings.

There were still some stores downtown, and one of them -- Kray's Store for Men -- played a pivotal role in altering the direction of the city's redevelopment.

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority had approved what was for the time a typical urban rewal plan: Most of the downtown -- from Pleasant Street to the Merrimack River -- would be torn down and replaced with new stores and plenty of parking. The city's center would be essentially turned into a mall.

The downtown that was to be wiped out by urban renewal dates from the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1811, which destroyed the city's Colonial-era business district. A new building code drafted after the fire mandated brick construction with firewalls.

But after Kray's owner Stanley "Ty" Tucker agreed to display an architectural model of the new Newburyport in the window of his store, people weren't sure they liked what they saw.

"It seemed to me that one of the problems was that people couldn't visualize the changes," said retired Daily News editor and general manager Bill Plante, who persuaded Tucker to set up the model in his window.

Kray's was on State Street at the time, where Chase and Lunt Insurance is now. (The store later moved around the corner to Pleasant Street, into the space currently occupied by Greta's Great Grains. It went out of business when Tucker and his wife, Elaine Kray Tucker, retired.)

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