Category Archives: The Waterfront

Newburyport’s Urban Renewal Plan has Expired

Newburyport’s Urban Renewal Plan for downtown Newburyport has expired.

Eaton's Drug Building

Eaton's Drug Building on State Street

I went to Newburyport’s Planning Office today and asked what that meant, or if it meant what I thought it meant.  And, yup, unfortunately I got it right.

What it means is that there is now NO protection for downtown Newburyport.  Anybody can do anything to the buildings downtown except for the E.P. Dodge Building (21 Pleasant Street), the Eaton Drug Building  (58 State Street, across from Richdales on the corner of State Street and Pleasant Street),  Fowle’s News on State Street and Newburyport City Hall. These buildings are protected through preservation restrictions.  But that’s it folks.

The Urban Renewal Plan protected the properties downtown that had received Federal money.  But now that the Urban Renewal Plan has come to an end, no more protection.

Almost everyone, I think, would agree that downtown Newburyport is vital to Newburyport’s economic health.  And downtown Newburyport is vulnerable once again (being partially destroyed and almost completely destroyed in 1968.)

The only thing that will protect downtown Newburyport is a Local Historic District (LHD).

In the upcoming Newburyport Election on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, the At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Make sure you vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Newburyport, Parking Payment from the Blog of Bob Cronin

From Newburyport City Councilor Bob Cronin on paid parking and Newburyport’s Waterfront Trust and the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority contributing to the citizens of Newburyport, MA.

The email and post can be read on Newburyport City Councilor Bob Cronin’s blog here.

“Dear friends and neighbors,

While I usually use this space to give updates and pass along information about the goings on and happenings in Ward 3 and the City, I’m changing course here just a bit today. This entry is about parking, the waterfront and a brief civics primer.

The Mayor has submitted a series of parking regulations to govern parking in the downtown and adjoining neighborhoods, which will contain a resident piece. There will be ample opportunity for input into the process as it moves forward.

The issue at hand is that in the Mayor’s plan the key component of the plan is paid parking in the surface lots. This includes the Waterfront Trust (WFT) lot, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) lots and of course city owned lots. The Mayor is working to get agreements in place with these quasi-governmental entities that manage these parcels and feel they are completely autonomous. Newburyport, like most of the other 350 cities and towns in Massachusetts is cash strapped.

I for one think that budgets must be examined for waste but this tactic only goes so far. Historical sources of local aid relied upon for generations are now a mere trickle from state government. New revenue sources have to be identified and put to use locally. Being against user fees on required services such as “pay as you throw trash”, I believe Newburyport should look more to the discretionary income side of the ledger.

The Mayor’s current paid parking proposal is in the Public Safety committee and I for one will be pushing hard for a significant portion of the net proceeds to go back to ALL neighborhoods in the form of vastly needed sidewalk repairs. We the residents of Newburyport have borne the brunt of poor ankle twisting sidewalks for much too long. This money will come from people visiting our downtown, many from other communities that make Newburyport their destination. When we visit other cities don’t we pay for parking? For the most part the answer is yes. This source can and will greatly benefit our infrastructure at little or no cost to the average resident.

But there is a problem; the WFT and NRA have not yet signed on with our City to make Newburyport better as a whole community. Rather the WFT and NRA continue to stare inwardly at their small outposts. Twenty plus years and there has been glacial movement on the NRA properties. It is time for them, the NRA to partner with the City to raise much needed cash for their properties and the City as a whole. Ditto for the WFT. They currently have paid parking but no enforcement. The City will provide that manpower and enforcement once they sign on.

Both these groups have been in attendance to the Mayor’s parking committee meetings but they have yet to climb onboard; why? What are they afraid of? Losing a grip on their domains?

It is time for these groups to stop being provincial and shortsighted and see the big picture. By signing on to the overall plan, not only will they be helping their City they will also help the areas and interests they supposedly represent. The residents of Newburyport should not only hope these appointed boards can finally represent the entire community and not their self interest, residents should demand it.”

Newburyport Local Political Election Recovery

I think I am finally coming out of my post local Newburyport political election letdown. After the high of Newburyport’s election night, way back in November 2009 (it’s now December, almost January), practically a post-coital event, where I found myself wanting to roll around in bed and smoke cigarettes.

The drama. Two good mayoral candidates, and then in the last two weeks, although at first cloaked in euphemisms, it became evident to the collective unconscious of the 35 percent or so voters who actually go to the polls on election day, that one of the candidates, gasp, wanted to put buildings on Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, after 40 or so years of struggling to come to a consensus to basically leave the land naked. The other candidate won. (A gross simplification, I know, but tough luck, voters generally don’t go for complicated political nuance.)

And in thinking about the mayoral candidate that won, Madam Holaday, it feels like a breath of clear Newburyport seacoast air, on a mild, clear winter day, and a dusting of very shovelable, 1-3 inches of powdery, bright white New England snow.

In the mayor elect, Donna Holaday, I have much faith. Sure I’ll disagree here and there, but I trust her to listen to the folks in Newburyport, MA, or to put it another way, to listen to the 35 percent of Newburyport’s electorate that actually pays attention and possibly cares, while considering the remaining 65 percent who don’t have a clue that we actually have something called a Newburyport city government.

She will listen to different points of view, most probably change her mind on local controversial issues, and will be accused, by those who actually pay attention and care of “flip-flopping.” But in my mind, it would not be “flip-flopping,” it would be a careful approach to governing.

She will probably sit down with the Newburyport City Councilors, show great patience and tact with those whom she might disagree, and for those few who look like they are so “green” (green in the “don’t have a clue” sense, not in the “environmentally correct” sense) that it will, if Newburyport is lucky, take them 6 months to a year to figure out what the hell is going on.

My first thoughts of coming out of my post election climax. And as I further awaken from my November induced haze, it could be that I might have something else to mumble and muse about in the days and weeks that await Newburyport, MA.

Newburyport Rail Trail, to the Water

When the leaves are still on the trees in New England October, when the light has changed with the seasons, and the sun is slanted low in the sky, it can be quite dark on the ground. But when the leaves fall, all of a sudden it seems as if the blinds have been pulled away and the daylight can now get through. Sometimes it feels quite bright and delightful, and at other times, especially on overcast days, it seems as if the landscape has been stripped.

Last Sunday, it was another one of those amazing warm, mid-fall New England days, sunny, after the leaves had fallen from the trees, and I thought I would take a look at the second, or first part of the Clipper City Rail Trail, depending on where you might start from. I walked down to Market Street again, and walked along the Newburyport Rail Trail towards the mouth of the mighty Merrimac River.

I am always surprised when I hear hostility towards the Newburyport Rail Trail, and again, it’s usually a feeling that this very extensive project is stealing money from the rest of Newburyport, MA. And as I’ve said in an earlier entry, the money comes from a completely different funding source, one that can only be used for something like this. So why not us? Why not Newburyport, MA? And the Clipper City Rail Trail presents long term benefits for making money for the City of Newburyport.

The Rail Trail that leads towards downtown Newburyport is the part that I took a gander at on Sunday.

And I was amazed again at the enormity of the project. Here is a photo of just one of the many pieces of equipment that is being used.

rtr-machine

Here is a photo of the paved pathway leading to what will be the boardwalk around, under the bridge to downtown Newburyport, as well as a boardwalk in the other direction, to Cashman Park (all blocked off at the moment).

rtr-bridge-water

And here is a photo heading back towards Market Street, where the very complex construction of the Newburyport Rail Trail is evident.

rtr-path

And we have a lot of people to thank for this very exciting addition to our city, but one person in particular for me stands out. And that is Geordie Vining of the Newburyport Planning Office. It has always seemed to me that this particular project, which has been ongoing for so many years, has been a true “labor” of love.

A Picture of Winning, Newburyport Election 2009

I had never really thought that there was any correlation between painting, my painting (see previous post) and my love of local politics. But after this last political race, 2009, I’m beginning to think differently.

When I start a painting there is an idea, the canvas is “blocked in” with shapes, the shapes become more and more detailed until, voila, there is a realistic painting.

And in this mayoral race it took a long time for me to see a picture taking shape, but the last weekend before the Newburyport election 2009 and especially the day of the election 2009, it seemed to me that there was no question that Donna Holaday would win.

About two weeks before the election it became clear, for a variety of reasons, the interviews in The Newburyport Liberator being one of them, that there was a huge difference in the way the two candidates approached the Central Waterfront (see earlier entries). And the there was no question that Donna Holaday had the “Waterfront” vote, a vote in Newburyport, never to be underestimated.

By that weekend, it was obvious to me that Donna Holaday had the “City Hall vote,” and the folks at Newburyport City Hall vote, and their ties in Newburyport’s community go deep.

It was also apparent that candidate Holaday had the “townie” vote (except for those who were a little concerned that she might not be as firm about the “override” issue as James Shanley). James Shanley was perceived as the candidate who was the “new comer,” who could take away their town. (I do not happen to think that this is true, but that appeared to be the perception.)

Donna Holaday had the enthusiastic education vote, a large block of voters. Ms Holaday had the “Back Bay vote,” basically anyone in town that really disliked the wind turbine (see earlier entries), which is a huge portion (politically correct or not) of Newburyport’s population.

The historic preservation vote was split.

And when the list of contributors came out, it was perceived that James Shanley was in the pocket of the developers. I know James Shanely, and I know that this is absolutely not the case, although it was the perception. (Mr. Shanley had worked very closely as a Newburyport City Councilor with the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, a member of which was a major player on his very organized campaign, and my guess is that a lot of the business community gave donations as a result.)

And then there was the fact that Donna Holaday has a huge name recognition, for a whole variety of reasons. And also, a lot of folks in town know that we have a mayor, but they don’t know that we have a Newburyport City Council, much less that we have a president of the Newburyport City Council. So the fact that James Shanley was the president of the Newburyport City Council meant absolutely nothing to a large majority of folks that don’t pay a whole lot of attention to Newburyport politics.

Newburyport Central Waterfront Risk, Election 2009

In re-reading the 2 previous posts on the mayoral candidates differing positions on their vision for Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, I was struck by something.

If I had “recently” moved to Newburyport, and a candidate had suggested to me that we replace what was destroyed on the Central Waterfront during Urban Renewal (see last 2 earlier entries) with historically sensitive buildings (James Shanley’s position), I might say, “Why not? That makes perfect sense to me.”

The problem for me is that it might make perfect sense, except that this particular piece of land, in this particular city, with a particularly long and volatile history, for whatever reason, is unbelievably emotionally charged.

A friend of mine likens it to the abortion issue, not that in any way it has remotely the same seriousness as that particular issue, but, locally, it does have an emotionally charged electricity about it. We have gone to COURT about this piece of land.

If James Shanley does get elected mayor, pursues this idea for the Central Waterfront, I think people will come out of the woodworks and go nuts, making what Mayor John Moak (see two earlier entries) went through seem like a “walk in the park.” And I wonder if the “new people in town,” that James Shanley talks about, would have the same passion, and fight, because it is my take that they would need to fight and fight relentlessly for this waterfront proposal, or just say, “Forget about it, this is just not worth it.”

Think about how upset people got about having a ticket booth on the boardwalk (see earlier entries). And that was just a tiny, shack-like ticket booth, not buildings.

So for me, although James Shanley’s idea for the Central Waterfront could make sense in a vacuum, or some place else, it strikes me, to even suggest going there, as being “politically deaf, ” and this concerns me.

Having ideas about projects is one thing, but reading the political climate, and understanding whether or not a project is politically viable, is crucial in a civic leader, especially the mayor. And should James Shanley pursue this project, if he were to be elected mayor, I think it could consume everything else that he would want to accomplish.

Building on Newburyport’s Waterfront

I looked back at posts on “the waterfront” on the Newburyport Blog. And when the blog was started back in January 2006, for about 6 months the subject of the resistance to Mayor John Moak’s proposal of paving over the Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, comes up over and over again, and I had forgotten just how viscerally passionate people were. There were still entries on the subject in 2007.

I don’t know if in three years that passion about this particular piece of land has disappeared, but it would be hard for me to imagine that it would have. And if folks were upset about Mayor John Moak’s proposal, how would they feel or react to mayoral candidate James Shanley’s much more ambitious proposal of building “something historically based, something like what was there before” (The Newburyport Liberator, October 9, 2009) on Newburyport’s Central Waterfront.

I’m sure that James Shanley, who is a very bright and thoughtful man, if he were to be elected mayor, would appoint a commission of very bright people to look at this “new” approach, to make this piece of land, which the candidate has called an “underperforming asset,” generate money for the city.

And then I can see all hell breaking lose, a little like all hell broke lose when Mayor John Moak started the process of trying to put mostly parking on that piece of land.

On July 2006, Al Decie wrote on the Newburyport Blog about Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, “The public’s wishes have been expressed loud and clearly by majority votes and voices in referendums, surveys, and in the courts.”

It is true, as James Shanley has said, that people like Al Decie (unfortunately) no longer live here, and that there may be a lot of new people, who “don’t understand how we got here” (Newburyport Liberator again) do. But, Mr. Decie is right, this piece of land produces such passion, that it has been involved in a very long, expensive and drawn out process IN COURT. And the issue was about building on that very same spot.

So either we as a city have “moved on” and are willing to think about a completely “new” approach to a much fought over piece of priceless downtown, Newburyport property. Or, if we even consider that route, those wild passions could come forth again (you can almost bet on it) and could derail much good that needs to be accomplished.

Personally, I like Donna Holaday’s approach “reduce the parking, install grass, plantings, landscape design…it would be perfect.” (Newburyport Liberator, same issue again) And we could concentrate on what Stephen Karp would be building on either side of the Central Waterfront, and “get on with it.” Do I really think that this “miracle” would ever happen in my life time. I haven’t before (see earlier entries here and here), and actually, I am still skeptical that it could.

Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, Election 2009

The differences between the two candidates running for Mayor of Newburyport in the 2009 election, Donna Holaday and James Shanley are beginning to emerge. And the one, unbelievably significant distinction is their plan for Newburyport’s Central Waterfront.

The Central Waterfront is not the land owned by Stephen Karp and New England Development, but the two “dirt parking lots” on either side of the Firehouse Center for the Arts, that the city has been fighting about for the last 40 years. It has always turned out to be a political third rail.

Jim Roy, the editor of the Newburyport Liberator, is one of those people who has fought for an Open Waterfront, and knows the most minute, tiny and important information about this whole long 40 year process. In the latest issue of the Liberator, which is out now, Jim has two very good interviews with both mayoral candidates. And in the next issue, due out this weekend, there will be an Op-ed piece by Mary Lou Supple, former chair of the NRA, in response to the interviews, specifically concerning the Central Waterfront. (I get my copy of the Liberator at Richdales, but you can find issues of the Liberator all over town.)

The position of James Shanley would go something like this–during Urban Renewal (The Newburyport Daily News did an excellent series on Urban Renewal called “A Port in Progress”), the city tore down a whole lot of historic buildings that were once on those two dirt parking lots. The city could put back buildings that would be in scale, that would run parallel to Water Street, leaving both access and views of the Merrimac River, that would resemble the wharfs, taverns and shops of earlier days, with places to sit and enjoy the mighty mouth of the Merrimac River.

Donna Holaday’s position is crystal clear. NO buildings. That space is “the Jewel of the city.” There should be a park period on the Central Waterfront, which is what the citizens of Newburyport have said that they wanted and have vigorously fought for, for at least 30 plus years. It’s time to get on with it, and make this long awaited vision finally come to fruition.

The Central Waterfront has always been Newburyport’s political third rail. I think that Mayor John Moak was “surprised” by the visceral response that he got early in his administration back in the winter, fall and summer of 2006 when he wanted to pave the central waterfront for parking. Mayor Moak was only talking about cars, not buildings. I think if we put aside 40 years of “discussion” that we as a city have had about the Central Waterfront, we would be opening one incredible can of worms.

Newburyport Sculpture and Art

peaceoffering_sculThe photo to the left is a sculpture by Michael Alfano, “Peace Offering,” that is currently in the Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park in Newburyport, MA. If the ticket booth is moved by the Newburyport Waterfront Trust to the Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park, this is location where it would go (we hope this does not happen).

This is the corner of the sculpture park where so many people come and sit, talk, wonder, gaze at the mighty Merrimac River, as well as watch their children play in the incredibly sculptural and climbable tree at that corner, which is pictured in the previous post.

To quote from the Sculpture Park’s website: “On exhibit for another year is a nearly six foot wide resin bench, “Peace Offering” by Michael Alfano that graces one corner of the park. The dove conveys the hope for peace, its tail transforms into a hawk, representing hostility. The dove’s wings become open hands, which might be ours, in an asking, a weighing, or an offering pose. Or they might belong to a larger force that welcomes two people to sit down and discuss their differences. This sculpture represents some of the many aspects of attaining peace. It is a expression of Michael’s Soka Gakkai Buddhist practice, with the intention of contributing to peace and culture.

Following this year’s extended stay at Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park, “Peace Offering” will be purchased for installation on the Clipper City Rail Trail.”

(Just as a note–for those people complaining about the money that has been given to the Clipper City Rail Trail, instead of going to a myriad of other things that Newburyport desperately needs, grant money for the Clipper City Rail Trail for things like “art,” etc. comes from a completely separate gene pool than money allocated for the myriad of other needed stuff.)

I’d hate to think that moving the ticket booth to that reasonably “sacred” space would be anything than the slightest and most passing notion by the Newburyport Waterfront Trust, one that would pass as fast as a sea breeze whisking past Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park in Newburyport, MA.

(The photo of the sculpture by Michael Alfano, “Peace Offering” is copyrighted by Artfluence, and is used with permission.)

Newburyport Original Art

I’ve written a lot about why original art work is so important to people’s daily lives and our culture at large (disclaimer: I am an artist). Original art enlivens an environment and enriches lives. A more crass reason is that the very wealthy may often buy original art because it is a “status symbol,” it indicates that whoever it may be, has “class.”

To steal from myself: Having a Ferrari (yes, I know, tough to have such an item in a lousy economic times) may be a status symbol, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person has “class.”

“Having art is unique in imparting to others that you are of value. Art is something that people pass on from generation to generation. Art defines civilizations. Art tells people that you are not only educated, but also that you appreciate history and beauty. It is why when the early American tycoons built their fortunes, they went out and bought art, because it gave them “class.” Thank goodness they did, because today we can see Van Goghs, Monets, Renoirs in the great art museums all over the world.” (Quoting from myself.)

In Newburyport, MA we have original art on our waterfront at the Newburyport’s Sculpture Park at Somerby’s Landing near the Black Cow restaurant. Ergo, this makes us “classy.”

There is some chit chat, that hopefully would go nowhere, that the little ticket booth (which again I love right where it is) could be put in the sculpture park.

My recollection is that when the sculpture park was being discussed, one of the absolute musts (and quite rightly so) was that it would not block the view of the water. The little ticket booth would ironically block the view to the water (much less destroying the actual sculpture park).. a demonstration.

motes_sculptureThis sculpture by Robert Motes, “An Imagined Place” (which is now a permanent installation at Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park, made possible in 2006 by the generous donation of the Newburyport Art Association) has a window with a “view” that is Newburyport’s waterfront– the corner of the sculpture park where the ticket booth would go. So if the ticket booth went there, the window would be looking at the side of the ticket booth.

At the moment the “view” from the window is of the granite corner where all kinds of folks come to sit under the shade of the delightful tree that is pictured, to read, to contemplate, to talk to one another, or to watch their children climb on that delightful tree and listen to their laughter as they enjoy this unique experience. That’s pretty much gone if the ticket booth goes in that particular community space.

And that’s only one example. And again, it is this blogger’s hope that it is merely chit chat that the ticket booth could be moved to this gem like community space, that is part of a jeweled environment in Newburyport, MA.

(The photo of the sculpture by Robert Motes, “An Imagined Place” is copyrighted by Artfluence, and is used with permission.)

Newburyport’s Sculpture Park

Elk sculptureOne of my favorite walks in my beloved hometown of Newburyport, MA is to walk to downtown Newburyport, go to Market Square, cross Merrimac Street at the Firehouse Center for the Arts, walk down the grassy area towards the board walk that runs along the mouth of the mighty Merrimac River.

There I take a left and walk around the indent of the boardwalk, go past the ticket booth, which I love (such sentiment of enjoying the ticket booth on Newburyport’s boardwalk I gather is now a sentiment of abomination, maybe something on that later, but I still love it, for a myriad of reasons) to the little gem, right before the restaurant, the Black Cow–Newburyport’s Sculpture Park, or more correctly, Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park, Newburyport, Massachusetts.

A picture framer (disclaimer: I am an artist) once told me that a good frame on a painting was like jewelry on a beautiful woman. And I have the same sentiment about Newburyport’s Sculpture Park–jewelry on a beautiful woman.

I remember going to Newburyport Sculpture Park’s “inauguration” in 2003. The City of Newburyport and the Newburyport Waterfront Trust had such pride and such delight at creating this gem on an already jeweled setting. And low and behold it has managed to have its own curator all these years with a roughly yearly exhibition, for all and sundry to enjoy, 24/7, 365 days out of the year, for those who are blessed to find and enjoy it.

And one of the things that I found out years ago, was that way back when, one of the kids that hung out on Inn Street, when so many people were worried about the kids on Inn Street, would go down to the sculpture park for inspiration, because she loved art, and here was art in Newburyport, MA. She later went on to work on Christo’s blockbuster exhibition, in New York City’s Central Park, The Gates–not bad for inspiration, as inspiration goes.

And now I hear about a whole lot of local political taffy–the Newburyport’s sculpture park is slightly being considered as a destination for the poor ticket booth by the Newburyport Waterfront Trust (email discussion can be read here). This blogger hopes that this might only be conjecture on the part of the current Newburyport Waterfront Trust, and this gem in the middle of the jewels that they are in trust of, will remain in its gem-like and inspiring state.

(The photo of the sculpture by Wendy Klemperer, “Elk” is copyrighted by Artfluence, and is used with permission. “Elk” is a now a permanent installation at Somerby’s Landing Sculpture Park. Funding was raised in 2005 by Jesse Vining (age 7) to purchase the Elk sculpture for the general public. Thanks for principal donations goes to the Lilliput Foundation, Five Cents Savings Bank, Institution for Savings, Newburyport Rotary Club, Hall & Moskow, the Newburyport Elks Lodge, and many other individuals, friends and family, children and adults.)

Newburyport Website Design

The second free website design that I created, contains three historic photographs of Newburyport, Massachusetts. It was a tough decision to decide which ones to use. But eventually I chose the photographs of the clipper ship in Newburyport’s waterfront harbor, a view of downtown Newburyport, looking up the Merrimac River, and a detail of the a clam worker from the historic photograph, the Clam Houses. All three photographs are in the public domain, courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library, in Newburyport, MA. The historic photograph of the Clam shack worker is at the top of this post.

The website design “Old Photographs” can be downloaded for free at Mary Baker Design. A demo of the Newburyport website design can be seen here.

The website design is in a WordPress format. WordPress is a terrific software. It is very flexible, and the person who downloads the website design can put their own title, description, content and navigating information on the top menu bar as well as on the side.

The site can be made to look like a website, a blog or a combination of both. If you are puzzled by what to do with the website once it is downloaded, please contact me at Mary Baker Design.

The first two websites based on the old photographs of Newburyport, MA are a way of giving back to the seacoast, New England city of Newburyport, MA that I love so much. And I figured that if the website designs are downloaded and used, that they would be a great advertising tool for the historic city of Newburyport, MA, a wonderful place to live, to work, to visit, to raise a family, to retire to and just to plain old enjoy and have fun. I’ve also included a snapshot of what the website design of “Old Photographs” actually looks like. You can see the “Old Photograph” website design page here.

Stephen Karp’s Visit to Newburyport, MA

I wasn’t at Mr. Karp’s visit to Newburyport, MA (see previous post), and having read all the newspaper articles, blogs and having talked to any number for folks, and having put all of that in a stew in my brain, the following “stuff” has emerged.

It does appear that Mr. Karp did good. As Public Relations go, in fact, of all the many, many ways he could have conducted the evening, it was “brilliant.”

To meet folks in person before hand, I gotta tell you, A+. (Does this blogger feel a little bit arrogant giving a developer of Mr. Karp stature, grades that one receives in High School? Yup, she does.) Being the only one to address the audience, relaxed, joking, in shirt sleeves and taking questions–as my son would say, “classic.” Definitely good go’n Mr. Karp.

Stressing public input and public process, on the record no less, well, this blogger likes this big time.

However, there were a few, “wait a moment” moments for moi.

The stress on the city coming up with a solution to the parking issue.

My first thought was, well, we’ve been fighting over this since the automobile first made its appearance, good luck with that one. I guess nothing is ever going to get built on Waterfront West or East. As my mother would say “tant pis,” or French for “too bad.”

And then I thought, hmm, the best proposed location for a parking garage by far, in my opinion, had been on the Lomardi Oil site, on Merrimac Street, behind the Newburyport police station. The Newburyport Planning Office had come up with a pretty awesome design (it failed in the Newburyport City Council at the time by one vote–in hindsight, it appears to be an “oh dear”).

And Mr. Karp has mentioned that he would not be opposed to a public, private enterprise. So 2 great locations on Mr. Karp’s property. Around the Fitness Factory, but even better, a well designed garage right off of Route 1 where the land going down to Michael’s Harborside is, and where I gather the hotel-condominium is being proposed. I think that the citizens of Newburyport, MA might go for a parking garage on that site. I have a feeling however, that that might not give the bang for the buck that Mr. Karp could be looking for.

There was a “ding, ding, ding, ding” going off in my head, hearing that when the question was asked, who on the development team would be the contact person for the Newburyport public on this project, and that at that time, no one had been appointed.

And on the subject of affordable housing, it sounds as if Mr. Karp drew a blank, and our own Nancy Colbert (Newburyport’ Planning Director), came to his rescue.

On his blog, Newburyport According to X, Mr. Npbt X had some interesting observations about Mr. Karp’s audience. What can I say, I wasn’t there. An interesting read.

And it appears that the audience broke down into three separate groups: the “skeptical group,” the “cautiously optimistic group,” and the “can I KYA, leechy group.” All of which, I would imagine, in Mr. Karp’s long career, must seem all very, very familiar.

So welcome to Newburyport, Stephen Karp.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Service, Fixing and Helping

My Dad passed on March 3rd, 12 hours short of his 90th birthday.

My father was a remarkable man. He taught me about the gift of “service.”

He taught his daughter that service is different from “helping” or “fixing” people, situations, institutions. That in “helping” and “fixing” one often sees individuals and institutions as being weaker than oneself, and that people could feel diminished, something my father never wanted.

My father taught me that service honors life, and the wholeness and holiness of life. And that service is not about taking credit for whatever is accomplished, but that amazing things could be achieved when one does not care who takes the credit.

And this brings me to Mr. Karp, who arrives in Newburyport, MA today for his first encounter with the people of Newburyport, MA.

And my hope would be that Mr. Karp would see Newburyport, MA not as a place to be “fixed,” or a place to be “helped.” But that Mr. Karp would use his knowledge, his expertise and his wealth in a spirit of “service.” That he would honor Newburyport, MA, and see his purpose, not as putting his “mark” on our small New England city, but see his work here, as a way of enriching Newburyport’s “wholeness” and enriching the city’s “spirit.”

That he might see himself not as a “powerful” landlord, but as a servant to a place that is much greater than himself.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Bobo is Me

A friend of mine recommended that I read “Bobos in Paradise,” the best seller published in 2000 by David Brooks, a “must read” book that I never read.

I started out reading “Bobos in Paradise” with the assumption that it would be a description and an indictment of what has happened to Newburyport, MA. Instead I found many descriptions of myself. And found myself nodding in agreement.

This is a quote from page 264:

“They (Bobos) will talk about preserving local character, fighting sprawl, combating unregulated growth, and enhancing “livability” and “quality of life.”

C’est moi.

“Bobos spend more time restoring lost treasures, renovating old structures, or preserving old buildings than they do creating new and experimental institutions. Every third Bob automobile seems to have a bumper sticker on it that implores, “Save the_.”

C’est moi (try “Save High Street” or “Save Our Town”).

“Bobos are saving old theaters, old neighborhoods, old factories and warehouses, or even historically significant diners.”

C’est moi.

“When they do allow new building, these mostly affluent activists will insist that the new construction adhere to the patterns of the past.”

Aside from the “affluent” part, yup, that’s me.

And maybe (I’m still thinking this over), that is why I am skeptical of New England Development and Mr. Karp (who we all know now is arriving here Thursday, March 13th to address the citizens of Newburyport, MA).

I am concerned, along with lots of other folks, about the “new buildings” that Mr. Karp would eventually erect on Newburyport’s Waterfront.

Would they be in keeping with the beauty, historic nature and intrinsic value of Newburyport, MA? Or would they bring a whole different dichotomy to Newburyport than what so many of us cherish about our small, New England coastal city.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Stephen Karp to Visit Newburyport, MA

Well, this is a relief. Really and truly a relief.

According to today’s Newburyport Daily News, January 30, 2008, Stephen Karp is coming to visit Newburyport, MA. The hope is for sometime in early March 2008.

“”It is just him trying to be visible here,” the mayor said… “It will be open to the public.”

The intention of the meeting, which is being pursued by (John) Moak and other Newburyport officials, is simply an introduction of the “players” involved with New England Development, including Karp, Moak said…”

“Moak said he wasn’t sure what form Karp’s visit would take but said he could address his development philosophy and introduce his team…”

“It is going to be more of an introduction, an introduction of New England Development to the community,” Moak said…

“At this point, the logical thing to do is to get to know the people of Newburyport and listen to their concerns to see if he can put those concerns to rest,” Jones (Newburyport City Councilor Tom Jones ) said. “I think he would find the people of Newburyport to be very welcoming to that…”

He (Newburyport City Councilor Tom Jones) said it is better to work with residents at the start than fighting them throughout…” (Newburyport Daily News, January 30, 2008, “Karp planning first visit to Port to introduce development team,” by Stephen Tait)

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s Note: Gillian Swart in the Newburyport Current, reported on February 7, 2008, that Stephen Karp will be in Newburyport, MA, Thursday, March 13, 2008, at a public forum–time and place to be determined.)

Newburyport, MA, the Integrity and the Fate of our City

I have had this conversation with many folks, always folks who have moved to Newburyport, MA “recently.” And by recently that could be 7 years to a month ago.

The question is, “So what if Stephen Karp’s plan is high-end homogenization. Why would that not be good for Newburyport, MA. Wouldn’t the economic prosperity that would ensue, be a bottom line in helping out our small New England city financially?”

There are any number of levels on which to respond to that question. Buy Local addresses some of the economic concerns, which people may not agree with (see Tom Salemi’s blog, Newburyport Posts).

When Roger Foster bought so much of the downtown property, whether one agreed with Mr. Foster’s goals or not (wanting a hotel on the Central Waterfront, on the NRA property), the land was owned by someone who had an emotional attachment to Newburyport.

When that land was bought by Chuck and Ann Lagasse, many people were concerned on the one hand, but on the other, again these were 2 people who lived within the community, had strong community ties, and also had what appeared to be a strong emotional attachment to Newburyport, MA.

For both Roger Foster and Chuck and Ann Lagasse, whether one agreed with the approach or not, there appeared to be a certain “integrity” in the ownership of the land. Both could have been seen as “family-run” businesses, interested about the bottom line, but also having a balance of being involved in and caring about the community of Newburyport, MA.

But this is what it feels like to me. This large piece of land (that contains over “50 retail properties in downtown Newburyport and along the waterfront,” New England Development’s website) has gone from being run as a family-run affair, to being owned by a very large and ambitious corporate entity, with no emotional attachment to Newburyport, MA, whose focus would solely be on the bottom line.

And although I hear all the time, that Ann and Chuck Lagasse are in charge for a reason, to maintain integrity, I do not buy it. That is my opinion.

It is my opinion that there has to be a business plan, and that business plan would have to come from the top, i.e. New England Development. And the way that the business appears now to be structured, it is my opinion that the Lagasses could not possibly have the last say, and final input, which would include input from the community, in what would happen to the fate of Newburyport, MA.

It is my opinion, that the emotional attachment and the “integrity” of the ownership, have been greatly compromised.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

High-End Homogenization, How High

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Dana Thomas, called “Deluxe, How Luxury Lost Its Luster,” how high end luxury brands, have become globalized, ” and “lost their luster,” and available to the “masses.”

The book “Deluxe,” explains how high-end luxury retail would now be available to developers like New England Development, Mr. Karp, whereas in earlier decades, that would not have been a choice that would have been obtainable.

(As a btw, Tom Salemi on his blog Newburyport Posts has a good list of articles and references to Stephen Karp.)

And the book also explains why “luxury” brands now have the possibility of being an emphasis in retail, whereas it would not have been possible a decade ago.

I was taking a look at the website of one of New England Development’s recent, in the works projects, “Wisconsin Place,” a mixed-use, lifestyle center in Chevy Chase, MD. Chevy Chase, MD is described as “one of the region’s most affluent and discriminating neighborhoods, “synonymous with well-heeled affluence.” And the project does include “a cluster” of very high-end retailers, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Tiffany & Co and Bloomingdale’s.

This appears to be a different emphasis from the retail in the CambridgeSide Galleria, across the river from Boston, one of New England Development’s earlier projects. The retail there, having more what I think of as traditional mall stores, Best Buy, Macy’s, Sears, etc.

I’m not sure what this all means. It’s hard to imagine that we would see Tiffany & Co in Newburyport, MA. Would Newburyport ever be synonymous with that kind of “well-heeled affluence?” Difficult for me to imagine.

Not an emphasis apparently on the low to mid-market. But what the “high-end” of high-end homogenization would it be? For New England Development, is Newburyport a “diamond in the rough,” or do we all ready have enough innate glitter and only need a little “buffing” here and there.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Five Star Marina

I think I am now going to assume (and try to accept, because it all seems to be out of our, Newburyport’s, control) that what is going to happen to our small New England City is high-end homogenization.

A friend of mine, who loves historic preservation, recommended a fascinating book by Dana Thomas, called “Deluxe,” how high end luxury brands, Gucci for example, have become globalized,” and “lost their luster,” and have become available to the “masses.”

All of this would mean that high-end luxury retail would now be available to developers like New England Development, whereas in earlier decades, that would not have been a choice that would have been available.

In an article in the Newburyport Daily News, January 11, 2008, that Tom Salemi also talks about on Newburyport Posts, Newburyport City Council Larry McCavitt had some reservations about the reconfiguring of Hilton Marina, which is owned by New England Development.

“‘We are basically trying to construct a five-star marina in downtown Newburyport,” Frangipane said.” (Butch Frangipane, marina manager for Stephen Karp)

“… (Larry) McCavitt, who said everyone has been asking what is going to happen, said this marina plan is the start.

“This is an incremental development of this area that is supposed to be a comprehensive plan,” McCavitt said.” (Newburyport Daily News, January 11, 2008, by Stephen Tait)

And I would agree with Councilor McCavitt that the marinas are a logical place for New England Development to start.

And I checked out Newburyport Waterside Marinas and one of the interesting things is, that although it is not included on the home page of the site, on most of the remaining pages “Nantucket Boat Basin” is one of the prominent links.

“At Nantucket Boat Basin, we provide you with the highest quality marina services from the moment you arrive until the time you depart. Our 240-slip, full-service marina caters to some of the world’s most discerning travelers. The Boat Basin is just two blocks from Nantucket Town, a charming, historic seaport with fascinating shops, unique galleries and world class restaurants.”

This is the copy on the website of the home page for Nantucket Boat Basin. It could easily be the copy for the a five star marina to come, in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport