Taking Baby Steps

Back in April, 2009; I suggested it was time to have a cohesive sidewalk plan for the city.      I postulated that it would be placed in the ordinances as such:

To re-enforce heritage tourism and to begin the discussion, here is a sample ordinance that would be placed in Chapter 12, Section 10 concerning mandating bricks within the Newburyport Historic District. It will not cause anymore undue financial pressure to the city and would give clear direction within the historic district. It would also open the city up to aggressive funding through tourist grants and highway improvement funds that would not just benefit locally but will forever frame Newburyport as a truly distinctive destination. Here it is:


Newburyport Brick Ordinance (To be inserted as Section 12-10)

Sidewalk Materials Policy

(a) Brick will be the required sidewalk material within the National Register of Historic Place’s boundaries. This area includes High Street and the sidewalks within from Marlboro Street to Atkinson Park; is bound on the west by Ashland Street and the sidewalks within and the east by Marlboro Street and the sidewalks within and to the end of Union Street and the sidewalks within as it intersects with Water Street. Both sides of sidewalks will be mandated to be brick on Merrimac Street from Ashland Street to Market Square and both sides of Water Street to the intersection of Union Street. All streets within those street boundaries of the National Register will be mandated to have brick material.

(b) Any sidewalks within this district that are concrete or macadam will be replaced with brick material whenever the existing sidewalk is to be re-constructed or replaced.

Existing brick sidewalks.

(a) When any portion of the public sidewalk that is constructed of brick is reconstructed or replaced, that portion shall be replaced with brick, unless all of the following conditions are found by the city engineer to exist:

(1) The particular section of sidewalk constructed of brick to be replaced is not located within the Newburyport Historic District as defined above, or in a “downtown streetscape area”,

(2) The particular section of sidewalk or adjacent property has not been designated “historic” by the boundaries of the National Register of Historic Places’ Newburyport Historic District.

(b) Major brick walk block is outside the National Register of Historic Places’ Newburyport Historic District

(c) Notwithstanding the restrictions set forth in this section concerning the retention of brick sidewalks, those sections of brick sidewalk need not be retained where the city council finds that due to changes in the vicinity of a specific request for waiver, brick sidewalk no longer serves as an enhancement. In such cases, waiver may be granted by a motion passed by a majority vote of the city council.

The problem has been that so many do not understand our city’s economic structure, our city’s rich history or even the ‘bones’ behind why our city is so beautiful.       These low-information voters just know one thing, ‘the city is sh’ore purdy’.         And yes, many who live in the Newburyport Historic District don’t even know they are in it.       Many couldn’t tell if their home was First Period or Greek or any other style.        As for history, they haven’t a clue – everything is emotional and visual.       They see art galleries, colonial street lights, brick buildings, funky shops, fun restaurants, restful boardwalks, coffee shops and cool boats.  


The trouble is – we need tourists that stay more than a day-visit and who actually have the money to spend on cultural, ecological and heritage activities.       And we need the entire community to understand that these visitors are as valuable as money in the bank – each citizen’s equity, future, property values and quality of life are all dependent on these same visitors having a positive opinion of their visit.         Desirability is a huge factor in sustaining the value of property.        If we lose that factor, it doesn’t matter how fancy your kitchen is or how well the house is insulated; if no one wants to move to Newburyport – everyone ends up falling victim to the buyer (assuming of course there is a buyer in the first place).      And once the magic is gone, it is hard to get it back.      Gloucester, Haverhill, Plymouth and Salem trashed their downtowns and now they are scrambling to get them back to health.       If we follow their lead, then we are doomed.       No one wants to buy a house in which they know the value will be less than the amount they purchased it.      Even those with plans for long term occupancy don’t want to see their equity flushed down the toilet.


The average citizen needs to know three basic things to secure us a safe future:


1. We must understand cultural and heritage tourism is key to our affluence.


2. That we are in the business of aesthetics – in infrastructure and in visual appearance.


3. That our culture and our history (including historic architecture and neighborhoods) have to be celebrated (and protected) so that we become a solid destination city.


I’m just getting started – in my next post – another baby step.


-P. Preservationist

This entry was posted in Architecture, Art & Culture, Downtown, Eco-tourism, Economics, Education, finances, Health and wellness, Heritage Tourism, History, Planning, Quality of Life, Streetscapes, Taxes. Bookmark the permalink.

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