Late in the process of putting in these two new ordinances to protect the downtown and to discourage demolitions; a sealed letter was delivered to the Mayor and to the city council.
I was slightly bemused so I obtained the letter. My mood went to dismay, then shock, then horror and then my blood ran cold. This was no ordinary document.
First of all, this was not a simple matter of a corporation speaking out as an ‘individual’ as the Supreme Court has told us can be allowed. This came as a legal document. It is setup as a declaration of intent to litigate. This from a company that is seeking to become a partner with the city in operating a garage and wants extraordinary considerations for its hotel that will require the city giving them special treatment.
Second, the letter clearly spells out that aesthetic values for the downtown are no longer of importance to them. They are making good money through the restaurants and marinas and see no value to the historic look and feel for the city. This can be seen by their neglect of the Fowles sign, the slow irregularity of replication and in some cases, a total disregard to the ‘feel’ of Newburyport. This means they don’t care about the historic district that has drawn so many to our downtown. And as they state in the letter, will make efforts to avoid any such enhancements. This flies in the face of Karp’s earlier assurances that any new development would follow the aesthetic and architectural theme of the downtown. It also means we need to carefully monitor what they plan for the look of their hotel. It’s far cheaper to have an ugly box hotel than to try to be cohesive to the rest of the center of the city.
And as for the supposed development of the Waterfront West Overlay District. I see no movement on the old Richard’s garage which tells me that he has abandoned this in favor of enhancing services on the water-related businesses.
I have a link to the copy of the letter so you, as a reader, can see for yourself that I am not exaggerating or taking the tone all wrong. So many in the past warned of the ulterior motives of Steve Karp to the extent that he had to come to Newburyport to allay so many of our citizen’s fears. After much assurances, we finally got the opposition to be quiet on the hotel and proposed garage and to largely give New England Development a pass.
Now things have changed – he is no longer looking out for us or looking for a mutually beneficial relationship.
The Letter has said it all. He’s done with Newburyport. Oh, sure; his local branch will be ever present but the big dream of making our city a resort for the wealthy? That’s done. They make good money off the marina’s but the problem with being a landlord to the commercial district; you have to take care of all that property. They have done little to put sidewalk improvements along Merrimack or even to enhance the look on their properties – they left the Fowles sign in a deplorable state and are steadily chipping away at the historic feel of our downtown. Now they’re demanding tenants do the upkeep and improvements on their buildings. This doesn’t sound like Papa Karp but more like Steve the Slumlord.
Just as the City has grown up and left the NRA behind; increasingly, as our citizens look to enhance our quality of life and to make our city a wholesome cultural destination – it’s beginning to look like we will be outgrowing our local ‘resort manager’ too.