C & J’s Park & Ride has the following statement on their website, “Newburyport is a city with a long and rich history where historic preservation has been the key to economic revitalization. A city…who values its historic sites.”
The first sentence is tremendously true. The latter contains a lie. Too many Newburyporters refuse to make the connection between historic preservation and economic vitality. We have a large group who have moved here and incorrectly assumed our beautiful place has always looked this way. Unfortunately, this segment of the population looks at present-day historic preservationists like they’re some kind of fringe group inconveniently making fusses over buildings or inappropriate signage.
What they forget is how this city financially operates. There was a time when property values were depressed and this tired old mill town was lived in by citizens pummeled by poverty and poor business prospects. It was a derelict city with great bones of historic architecture. Our downtown was largely boarded up storefronts and private homes were worn out because the owners were too poor to restore them.
Most people understand historic restoration of the downtown was the key to transforming our City. What they don’t understand is the affect went far beyond our center. People moved in who took dilapidated houses and began to restore them. Townies began also to restore their homes and the domino effect is continuing today. As the homes began to improve, property values began to increase, people had more equity to re-invest into their homes and as they re-invested, tax revenues increased and the property values went up and more equity became available. The process continues today. 70% of the City’s revenue comes from the residences inside and surrounding the historic district as a ripple affect reaches to our borders.
This total misunderstanding of how the City is funded has lead to a growing number who flatly refuse to value historic buildings. Tom Ryan, former editor of The Undertoad called Newburyport, Cannibal City. No wonder! We have many developers and homeowners gnawing on the very bones of our community.
If Newburyport is to continue to prosper, it must fully commit itself to put historic preservation back at the very center of its policy. It must take serious the protection of its historic structures. They are our source of ever growing wealth and our treasure. We need a majority of citizens who understand this and will once again stand up for preservation.