At one time, the South End was considered not only a slummy neighborhood but also unsafe for anyone to walk through!
It is now the most desired section of the city catching high real estate prices. As the years passed, by the late Eighties, the only bad streets left were Boardman and Lime (affectionately called Slime) and even these were only bad close to Merrimac Street.
We have had street after street, neighborhood after neighborhood upgraded as the ripple affect of affluence has spread from our restored Downtown.
But in a worrying new trend, we are gaining a new slum: a stretch of Water Street from Ship Street in the West to the corner of Bromfield. It has always been a tough section being so close to the Sewer Plant and the Electric Utility and for years, ‘odors’ would maliciously linger in the area or your view in the back was of huge transformers and coils of cable. Here too, there were many who bravely came in and rejuvenated the houses. For a while, things were looking up.
That trend has reversed itself.
We have new owners who are determined to strip away any architectural features that reflect Newburyport’s history – it is increasingly looking like a section of Revere or Lynn – a collection of squares and rectangles. Historic clapboards replaced by vinyl; minimalist styles that stick out like sore thumbs. Even the streetscape is beginning to deteriorate with lots full of cars parked and lawns paved. I even spotted a chain-link fence being installed! I predict that if this trend continues, this stretch will begin to negatively affect property values if it hasn’t already.
I do not envy the real estate agent that will try to sell this ‘cold’ sector of our city.
I will continue to press that we need to extend the local historic district ordinance to the entire National Historic District – if we do not protect this great rudder of our city, we as a ship of state will begin to flounder and lose our way!