“People come to Newburyport to be attracted by the historicity of the community… we want to continue that.”
-Dick Sullivan, Sr, June 18, 2007, Renovators had rules to follow when rebuilding, Newburyport Daily News.
Newburyport’s renaissance occurred when the NRA, spurred on by the concerned citizens of Newburyport, stopped demolishing buildings and wiping out streets and began to preserve the lands they were in control of. They then worked to preserve our federalist downtown. But since they had intentions of continuing the building of commercial buildings all the way to the boardwalk, no real attempt was made to do anything with this central expanse except to use it for temporary parking.
In the Daily News’ Port in Progress, they omitted, since it occurred after the restoration, the lawsuit that actually gave us some modicum of park land and preserved ways to the water that we see today. This legal action meant that the plans to originally pave this area to the water, or to put in buildings had to accommodate a breakup since now the ways to the water were not only preserved and fostered as public access but guaranteed that some park land would be present. In fact, the very presence of the Waterfront Trust is an ever-present reminder that the NRA will indeed by disbanded one day and must be replaced by this caretaker organization.
My point is clear.
The Central Waterfront was nothing to look at – there weren’t even nicely coordinated parking spaces and any form of infrastructure. And yet, the historic restoration of our downtown began to bring back Newburyport from the brink. This design work started the ripple affect that has not only spread throughout the historic neighborhoods but has continued today as real estate values are skyrocketing across the city. And where are they skyrocketing the most? In cramped, tightly packed, narrow-street South End; followed closely by an intense desire for the humble homes in Joppa once inhabited by fishermen and laborers.
The absurd notion that somehow our boardwalk and 4.2 acres of NRA land somehow contributed to our present-day affluence is a work of fiction concocted by many self-serving special interests. One of those interests wishes to exploit our historic buildings. How? By using their historic value to flip homes for anticipated profit. A profit that will leave our city losing its tremendous allure of historicity. They are already gutting and demolishing houses right where our historic architecture is most alluring and they have no plans on stopping until they are forced to stop. By having the citizens focus all their energies on the waterfront is a great distraction to hide their nefarious exploitation.
Mayor Dick Sullivan, Senior understood the importance of preserving our historic architecture and streetscapes. And in the recent mayoral campaign, Dick Sullivan, Jr. stated to me that one of the first things he would do as mayor would be to protect the downtown. (if more had heard this message, he probably would have ended up being elected as mayor!)
Don’t misinterpret what I am saying that I claim we don’t need the waterfront. In the tradition of many great cities, large and small, a central open space is vital to the urban well-being of a community and should always be factored into municipal planning. Don’t even dare to suggest in New York City, a commercial and financial dynamo, that a single lot in Central Park should be sold to a private developer. As for the economic benefit of open space, ask any realtor or commercial landlord where will the highest rates be charged. Next to guaranteed and protected open space.
City Council has started the process of protecting our historic downtown and they will need input, suggestions and support so that our continued high quality of life is sustained. We need again the citizens of Newburyport to raise their voices in support of protecting what started our rebirth so long ago in the early seventies: our Federalist-themed historic downtown.
Please come to the public hearing on February 19th and lend your support to preserve our great way of life.