Back when the downtown was being restored, Inn Street was supposed to have a light structure lining the east side of the street that would not take away from the historic Federal-style architecture. The problem was that a steel strike was in play and the materials were simply not available. With deadline’s looming, it was fatefully decided to replace the design with heavy brick silo’s for stairs and massive concrete gangplanks.
That was well over 42 years ago. In the meantime, law enforcement was difficult with too much hidden behind the silo’s; and the concrete was an ugly disproportionate distraction from an otherwise celebrated downtown restoration. Plans have come and gone to try to mitigate this ‘mistake’; with varying degrees of changes and with little money to make it ‘right’. In the end, sadly, no amount of flowers can ever really fix the problem.
Now we’re faced with a decision on the garage. Amongst all the fussing and obfuscating; there is a short-term call to save money. But if we the citizens of Newburyport through some penny saved, pound foolish concept and we don’t get it right, we’re stuck with aesthetic, economic and structural problems for decades with frankly, little opportunity to fix the mistakes.
Right now, we have an opportunity to do it right. The Planning Director is absolutely correct. The massing, the streetscape of a larger garage matches with the downtown. If we try to be cheapskate about the sizing, the look and feel of the Titcomb-Merrimac Corridor to Route One; it won’t be right – and it won’t be right for a very long time.
Tomorrow’s vote by the city council is crucial. It is clear from these design mockups on the city’s website; that the MVRTA still doesn’t have any idea how to make a parking garage blend aesthetically into our downtown. We need the design money approved so they do it right. But we don’t want to compound that challenge by giving them an excuse by asking them to blend it into the downtown when the building layout will inherently be fatally flawed.
I encourage citizens to look ahead beyond today and realize the massing and size of the garage will be crucial to its success, not just that it blends into our historic downtown.
Doing it right now means we don’t have to ‘fix it’ years down the road.