I realize that the “Big One” for New England is well over three hundred years behind schedule. The last major earthquake was felt here in Newbury back in the 1600’s and though we’ve had some interesting shakings, we really don’t live our lives like they do in California and wonder in the back of our minds pondering when the next big one will hit.
But a really big one just hit Newburyport and the community doesn’t even know it. But I assure you, the aftershocks will be felt for years.
Mass Historic has just issued a ruling concerning the proposed Ale House at 40 Merrimac Street. They can’t proceed without a Chapter 91 permit. As proposed by Hayes Engineering, Inc.; since this building lies outside the Newburyport Historic District, any issues concerning its impact to the rest of the national register area is of little concern.
As everyone knows, the glass enclosure with outdoor seating on top will be put where the concrete extension lies presently. This extension is right in the path of the view corridor down Green Street. (Nobody cared back when we were a dirty mill town.) Today, people expect to see the river from up the way, from Bartlett Mall, from the Clark Currier Inn and from other locations along that street. The consultants proposal insisted that only water-related issues should be addressed and the Ale House fate should have minimal influence in relation to the historic district.
At the last EPA hearing, the consultant was beside himself irritated that such issues as “view corridor”, “streetscape”, “ways to the water” and historic compatibility should have even been brought up at the meeting.
Well, he’d better take a chill pill because Mass Historic has declared that new construction must take into consideration and be compatible with the Newburyport Historic District.
Why is it an earthquake?
Because it means that buildings constructed in the area must have a look and feel that is not in conflict with the historic downtown, commercial and residential. These guidelines are listed right on the online version of the NHD. They’re not complicated either.
That means the 40 Merrimac owner needs to get his architect and contractor (and consultants) to do major revisions on their “exuberant” design.
That the NRA, and if they get a developer to assume the project; must build structures that are compatible to the downtown.
That KARP can’t just build his hotel with any old design that would maximize profit – he must make it blend into the district.
That New England Development proposed Waterfront West Overlay District must be compatible to the historic district. (To be fair, they have already promised to do so.)
That means that any rulings in the future will need to take this precedent into consideration and I hope that includes that ugly structure that offensively sits at 42 Merrimac Street.
This letter needs to be framed – or put in a prominent place in the Planning Office.
Any future developer will need to see it before they begin to make their vain plans.