To the editor:

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, so the saying goes. And so it goes for Storey Avenue, in spite of the removal of a few signs (with kudos to Senator O’Connor Ives and Councilor Connell for that effort). It is still a sow’s ear mess.

So why are they planning a sow’s ear mess for Merrimac Street from Route 1 and 1A east to Market Square, the main traffic flow to the central restored antique area? This precious, fragile environment demands an inviting, tree-lined entranceway, retaining views of river, boats, parkland, Firehouse and tower and distant spars and steeples, not street level commercial buildings with fake brick facades.

From latest plans leaked, we can picture what this sow’s ear consists of: going east from Route 1-1A, on the left (in the storm-surge, hurricane 1 and 2 area), a three-story building of condos and retail; next, at street level, is Karp’s “boutique hotel” (translate: a three- or four-story, 80-room structure looming above or behind retail shops, etc.).

On the right side of the street, Karp Country, more sow’s ear: condos above, shops. etc. at street level, thanks to zoning change (from 20 feet back), a gift to Karp and mayor by lame duck City Council last December.

Next in line, the biggest sow’s ear, the three- or four-level parking garage/bus station/regional transportation center (common sense would put that monstrosity near the train station, convenient to travelers and future needs). The mayor’s dream to bring the “vibrancy of State Street to the waterfront” fulfilled — a nightmare, Newburyport’s future mega sow’s ear.

Lost forever, the picture-postcard vistas of an iconic maritime community. Gone the spars and spires, symbols, as sacred to Newburyporters as the stars and stripes on the American flag flying atop the Firehouse.

We can do better. With public participation, open minds, common sense and, most important, an eye to the future, Merrimac Street and surrounding areas can become a real silk purse.

Let your voice be heard; say “no” to future sow’s ears and say “yes” to maintaining the last remaining visual symbols of our maritime roots, a prideful, very rich silk purse.

Natalea G. Brown


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