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Port in Progress

September 3, 2007

Bradshaw brought new direction to NRA

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On Sept. 27, 1972, Jack Bradshaw assumed the chairmanship of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, the board charged with finding a developer to revitalize a then-gasping downtown.

"While we'll be happy and willing to meet with any group regarding the selection of developers, we do have the final vote as to what will happen," Bradshaw said after being unanimously elected by his fellow members.

The comment set the tone for his tenure as chairman. The NRA would listen; it would consider suggestions; it was willing to work with people. But when it came to who made the decisions, Bradshaw served notice that night: It was the NRA's job to redevelop the dilapidated town center and bring back its lost glory, and that's what it was going to do as quickly as possible.

For the scrappy 30-year-old, who'd loved Newburyport since he was a kid visiting his special aunt during the prosperous 1950s, the waiting was over. With a completed, preservation-based redevelopment plan federally approved and funded, Bradshaw was determined to end the inertia and inactivity that had plagued the project since its start in 1960.

Unknowingly, however, his comment in September of 1972 would set the stage for Bradshaw's future and that of the NRA. Within six months, Bradshaw would leave the career he'd built in the insurance industry to take over as acting director of the NRA after Paul McGinley resigned the post. Once there, the goal-oriented executive director stayed, and would lead the authority during its busiest years, and through some of its most controversial.

Bradshaw would ruffle some feathers and break a few eggs during his tenure. But for the driven young man, the time to act had come.

The NRA's impact on Bradshaw's life was no less dramatic than it was on Newburyport's crumbling downtown. By the time he left the NRA in 1978, with the exception of the so-called parcel 8 lot (now the Merrimack Landing building) and the waterfront, every parcel within the 22-acre downtown urban renewal district was redeveloped or on its way. He had also found a new career. He'd go on to work in urban redevelopment for other municipalities, as well as on the state level in Boston for many years to come.

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