Events are moving rapidly in our downtown – and if you are not sure what is happening; you can mistakenly expend all your energies going from one fight to another fight until you find yourself unfocused and involved in rear guard action until you find yourself losing in the end.
That is because so many want to preserve the city but have fallen into the trap of trying to preserve the un-preservable!
If you look at the city from an objective viewpoint; you can see that in urban design we have a lot of lacking elements:
An area stretching along the south end of Merrimac Street all the way west from the bottom of Green Street that is a mess. We have a rather varied and rundown part of Merrimac stretching from the west side of Horton’s yard to the highway. We have dirt and pavement parking lots on the waterfront. Waterfront east and west are rather undeveloped. Not to out do the disorder, Liberty Street from the east side of Abraham’s bagels is composed of cinder block buildings and poorly constructed and poorly themed structures. Then comes the disorganized and unused areas of the waterfront from the east side of the Coast Guard all the way to Joppa Park.
All of these are begging for big changes.
And to fill that gap will come a whole host of developers – some, like New England Development, with their own ideas of how to do things. Each will have their pre-conceived ideas on how to develop and still make a profit.
Because of the uniqueness of Newburyport – every design and plan will be UGLY and WRONG. Even their business plans will most likely be defective too.
Newburyport is the exception to the rule. For it is our architecture and the history behind it that will dictate the success of the development.
And that is where the fight will be -
The MVRTA will fight to have an ugly, utilitarian parking garage much like the ugly one in Portsmouth and the ugly one in Haverhill and the ugly one in Salem.
Karp and Karp, jr. are going to try to wiggle out of the deal to blend their architecture with the downtown’s and they will try to make a development that is more fitting for Boston or Cambridge. They may succeed but in the end they will fail commercially.
Other developers not realizing the importance of our history and design will try to put in ugly contemporary and/or utilitarian housing and commercial spaces to maximize profit.
The fact is that each and every one of these companies and organizations are going to hate us the citizens of Newburyport for forcing them to make their developments blend in with our downtown Federal theme.
Years later, they will be eternally thankful that we did.
It will be up to us to have a thick skin and to take the time to visit the Planning Office, talk to the Planning Director, persuade the any-development-is-good city councilors and the Mayor; and attend the dozens of boards and committees and commissions to drive home the message: either build to blend or take your crappy one-size-fits-all and shove it. (hopefully far from Newburyport)