Category Archives: Real Estate

Newburyport’s Waterfront did have Buildings

Newburyport's Waterfront, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

Newburyport’s Waterfront, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself.  I will read statements here and there from folks who desperately would like to keep Newburyport’s waterfront open, and the remarks go something like this, “Well, there never were any buildings on the Waterfront.”  Really, I hear this, sometimes, sometimes often.

Actually, that is not true. Not true at all.  And in this weeks Newburyport Daily News, John Macone wrote a fascinating history of the Waterfront, for Newburyport’s 250th anniversary.

Newburyport's Waterfront, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

Newburyport’s Waterfront, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

“This was a crowded, loud, dirty, busy, smelly, bawdy and in later years a somewhat dangerous place, thick with buildings perched on wharves that stretched far out into the Merrimack River. Vessels came and went from ports all over the world, and the riverside rang loud with the clang and bang of shipbuilding yards that lined the shore…”

The Waterfront c1920, courtesy of The Historical Society of Old Newbury

The Waterfront c1920, courtesy of The Historical Society of Old Newbury

And John Macone ends the piece by saying, “Newburyport’s great ship captains of the 18th and 19th century would find today’s central waterfront unrecognizable — too quiet, too neat, too big, and too open.”

You can read the entire article here, along with some fascinating photographs.

Newburyport Tells its Own Past

Photo courtesy of the Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library

Market Square, Photo courtesy of the Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library

This is one of my favorite quotes. And I love this photo of Market Square, which is courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library.

“There can be no significance without memory…And if memory is necessary for significance, it is also necessary for both meaning and value. Without memory nothing has significance, nothing has meaning, nothing has value…

The city tells it own past, transfers its own memory…and it is memory that makes places significant.”

Donovan D. Rypkema, writing about the historic buildings in Newburyport, Massachusett

The NRA is not a STD

NRA = Newburyport Redevelopment Authority
STD = Sexually transmitted disease

One of the first things that struck me when I first saw the “Save the Open Waterfront” signs around town, was the phrase, “Stop NRA.” Not “Stop the NRA,” but “Stop NRA,” as if the NRA was not a group of Newburyport residents, but instead something like a STD, a sexually transmitted disease. And maybe that was the point in the marketing strategy, I don’t know.

What I do know, is when I walked and talked to folks during what seemed a very, very long election, the Waterfront always came up, and when the NRA was mentioned, I would try to explain that the members of the NRA are real, actual caring, human beings, not weird, wired, automated machines, cyborgs. Sigh.

And the chair, Tom Salemi, has got to be one of the nicest, fairest, kindest human beings in town–not toxic waste. When I would get beyond the tactfully stated, on my part, “not toxic waste” thing, and tell people about Tom Salemi, they would relax a little, and say, “Really.”  And I’d say, “Really. Really and Truly.”

And judging from the article in the Newburyport Daily News, see earlier entry, it is really and truly true. The members of the NRA are not some uncaring monolith (a large and impersonal political, corporate, or social structure regarded as intractably indivisible and uniform), but people who care about this small New England City and the people who live in it.  Will everyone in Newburyport believe that, probably not, but “really and truly,” that is true.

Newburyport 2013 Election Results

Mayor
Donna Holaday (incumbent)
Richard Sullivan Jr.

Winner:
Donna Holaday

Councilor At-Large
(5 Councilors At-Large)
Laurel Allgrove
Edward Cameron (incumbent)
Barry Connell (incumbent)
Ari Herzog (incumbent)
Meghan Kinsey
Lyndi Lanphear
Bruce Menin
Sheila Mullins
Bruce Vogel

Winners:
Edward Cameron
Barry Connell
Ari Herzog
Meghan Kinsey
Bruce Vogel

Ward 1 Councilor:
Michael Ferrick
Allison Heartquist (incumbent)

Winner:
Allison Heartquist

Ward 2 Councilor:
Jared Eigerman
Christopher Welch

Winner:
Jared Eigerman

Ward 3 Councilor:
Robert Cronin (incumbent)
Leslie Eckholdt

Winner:
Robert Cronin

Ward 4 Councilor:
Tom Jones (incumbent)
Charles Tontar

Winner:
Charles Tontar

Ward 5 Councilor:
Larry Giunta Jr.
Sean Reardon

Winner:
Larry Giunta Jr.

School Committee
(3 School Committee members)
Steven Cole (incumbent)
Daniel Koen (incumbent)
Michael Luekens
Raymond Matthews
Cheryl Sweeney (incumbent)

Winners:
Steven Cole
Michael Luekens
Cheryl Sweeney

Election Results 2013, press image to enlarge

Election Results Mayor and City Council 2013, press image to enlarge

Election results  for Mayor and City Council

Election 2013, School Committee (press image to enlarge)

Election 2013, School Committee (press image to enlarge)

Election results for School Committee

Congratulations to all who ran and to all who won.

Official numbers in for the top 5 Newburyport City Council At Large race (slightly different than last nights numbers, the winners are still the same).

Updated total:

Ed Cameron 2947
Barry Connell 2944
Ari Herzon 2893
Megan Kinsey 2856
Bruce Vogel 2526

Final results for Newburyport City Council At Large (press image to enlarge)

Final results for Newburyport City Council At Large (press image to enlarge)

Final total for Newburyport City Council At Large (last night’s results were “unofficial”).

Where to Vote Tuesday, November 5th 2013

Where to vote

Where to vote

There is  a very cool tool to find out where to vote in Newburyport, this Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

You just enter your street number, the street’s name, and your city or town, or your zip code, and voila, it tells you exactly where to go (it even tells you which ward you are in, and how to get in touch with the City Clerk). It can be found here.

The people of Newburyport will be voting for a Mayor (a 4 year term, not a 2 year term), for 5 Newburyport City Council At-Large candidates, Newburyport City Council candidates in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5, and 3 Newburyport School Committee members.

Voting hours are 7am to 8pm.

Be sure to vote.

I will most likely go down to City Hall at 8pm, and will post the election results on the Newburyport Blog and the Newburyport Blog’s Facebook page.

Here is a sample ballot for the Newburyport At-Large Candidates.

Newburyport At-Large Ballot

Newburyport At-Large Ballot

Comparison of the NRA Waterfront Plans

A comparison of the NRA Waterfront plans.

First Draft – September 2012, Second Draft – June 2013.

A comparison of the NRA Waterfront plans. (Press image to enlarge.)

A comparison of the NRA Waterfront plans. (Press image to enlarge.)

Citizens for an Open Waterfront’s (COW) alternative plan – April 2013 (flipped vertically so that it is easier to compare to the proposed NRA plan).

Citizen's for an Open Waterfront's (COW) alternative plan

Citizens for an Open Waterfront's (COW) alternative plan

Patina, Newburyport and the Soul of the City

Definition of Patina:

“A surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use.” Merriam-Webster

If you ever watch anything on TV that has to do with old stuff, from the tonier PBS “Antiques Road Show,” to the newer “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel, something old would be brought in, and if it has been refinished, and the original finish has been removed, whether it’s an old gun, a coin or an old piece of furniture, the value of that piece, whatever it might be, would be greatly, greatly diminished.

Same thing with small historic seacoast New England cities, i.e. Newburyport.

When I moved her over 30 years ago, Newburyport had a whole lot of soul and patina. I loved walking down the street and feel the stories behind the homes that I would walk past.

Lately, I’ve heard people use the word “slummy,” even for existing parts of Newburyport.  Yes, really – “slummy.”

Slummy seems to be the new word for anything that hasn’t been torn down, or torn apart and is looking shiny and new.

What I would call “patina” in Newburyport, is now being rebranded as “slummy.”

An historic home, one that is 75 years old, or in Newburyport’s case much, much older, that has been lovingly restored, retains its soul, its patina.  An historic property in Newburyport that has been torn down, or ripped apart so that almost nothing exists, that property, has not only lost its patina, its soul is gone as well, and in my mind, no offense or anything, so has its value, in this particular place, Newburyport, Massachusetts.

A home that has been decimated here and there in Newburyport, Newburyport’s soul and patina still exists.  Keep adding to those homes that have been decimated and the soul of the city gradually disappears, and nope, it cannot be regained.

There are many keepers of the Newburyport’s soul in this city.  And one of those entities that are entrusted with its soul is our Historical Commission (not the Historical Society, two completely different entities).

And back, quite a while ago, when things were really beginning to be decimated, the city, the Historical Commission and the Newburyport City Council, put Newburyport’s Demo Delay in place.  It was a way to get people to stop for a little while, have a discussion about their small piece of the soul of the city.  And the Historical Commission could enact a time period, at the moment it is one year, to delay demolition, and to explore options, and hopefully retain that part of the city’s soul. Or not, the owner or developer could tear down the structure at the end of the demo delay, if they chose to, and at that time the city’s building inspector would issue the appropriate permits.

What is so destructive about the new Demo Delay Ordinance proposed by City Councilor Bob Cronin, and co-sponsored by City Councilor Dick Sullivan, who is also running for mayor, is that the ordinance focuses on structural choices, giving the building inspector say over what gets demolished, and what does not.  The proposed ordinance does not focus on the soul of the city.  And that soul, that patina, is why so many of us come to Newburyport to live, visit, work and play.

Bushee Estate Demolished for a Subdivision

The Bushee estate on Newman Road has been demolished for a subdivision.  That’s a “Yikes.”

The home that carried her ( Florence E. Bushee) name boasted a twin chimney 2 1/2-story colonial with 13 rooms and eight open fireplaces, ornamental gardens, a carriage house, a post and beam cow barn and multi-stall horse barn.”  Newburyport Daily News, January 25, 2102

The entire article can be read here (it’s worth reading!!).

Newburyport Carpetbaggers, the 95%

Carpetbagger

Carpetbagger

One Newburyport City Councilor (Dick Sullivan) got up in the Newburyport City Council chambers and lamented that all these “newcomers” were coming in and telling the folks who were born and raised here what to do.

Another Newburyport City Councilor (Tom Jones) got up (Thursday night) and said how Newburyport was a working class town, and seemed to intimate that it was still a working class town.  No it’s not. In the year 2012, Newburyport is an upper-middle class city, quickly approaching a upper class enclave – especially when Mr. Karp starts building.

Honey, it ain’t your father’s Newburyport anymore.

If you haven’t noticed the carpetbagger thing has really, really gotten out of hand lately.  You don’t just have the carpetbaggers who came in the first wave, in the mid to late 1970′s and very early 1980′s,  right after Urban Renewal renewed.  There was a wave in the late 1990′s after the MBTA came back to town. Remember that, a big housing spike when a lot of the old timers cashed in.  I remember folks saying  that it was a joke that anyone would want to live in Newburyport’s South End. There was a lot of bitterness about how high the taxes had gotten because of the housing boom, but that money bought more house not so far away, in a place where there weren’t so many doctors, lawyers and financial folks. Where the working class folks felt more comfortable.

And then the super duper influx around 2005, when Mr. Karp bought so much land and real-estate downtown.  Yup, and people have just kept coming, with more and more money, lots more money.  And the old-timers, the natives, they pay attention and they vote, but their numbers just ain’t what they used to be.  It’s not your father’s Newburyport by any stretch of the imagination, no how, no way, any more.

14 Russia Street, Newburyport, Adios??

Thanks to the P.Preservationist for the heads-up, as well as Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron for the photo (I “borrowed”) and the link to the ZBA meeting.

14 Russia Street, Newburyport, headed for the chopping block by one of our own local developers.

This is why we need a demo delay with teeth, NOT a one year demo delay, good grief!!  Katy Ives is only proposing 2 years. We need more than 2 years (and 2 years is not “a taking,” for goodness sakes!!)

The Newburyport City Council is going to “chat” about Councilor Ives “compromise,” I can see some minor tweaking, but major watering down of even that in a search for some votes.  Hello.

We have a gorgeous, charming place here. The Newburyport City Council has a tremendous and noble opportunity.  Councilor Ives “no demo overlay” for Newburyport’s Historic District – it’s a good idea!!

Councilor Cameron is right, “Newburyport – Death by a thousand paper cuts!!”  Not going to be such a fun place to work, live and play, or eventually make any money off your house when you go to sell it, if the Newburyport City Council doesn’t step up to the plate and do something significant! with a few teeth and a little chutzpah already!! Enough with the caving in to the extreme property rights, minority “wing” of the Newburyport population!!  Man-up!!

14 Russia Street, headed for the chopping block

14 Russia Street, headed for the chopping block

What Newburyport Used to Look Like, “A Measure of Change”

Link to "A Measure of Change"

Link to "A Measure of Change"

This video is worth posting again, and if you haven’t seen it take a look, or if you have seen it, it’s pretty amazing and might be worth a gander again.

It’s about what Newburyport used to look like not so long ago in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s. It’s not the gorgeous downtown we all know and love now.  And downtown Newburyport no longer has any protection (it ended in 2005).  The Newburyport City Council has a fantastic opportunity now to put protection of downtown Newburyport back in place.  It would be a noble and intelligent thing to do.

The film “A Measure of Change” was made in 1975 by Lawrence Rosenblum on what the city looked like before Urban Renewal.  A link to the video which is now online can be found here.

A Really Good Compromise on Newburyport’s LHD

This sounds like a really good compromise on Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) sponsored on Monday night by Newburyport City Councilors Katy Ives and Bob Cronin. Excellent work!!  I hope it is one that the Newburyport City Councilors see as a “win-win” alternative.

The proposals address what Councilor Ives called the “most egregious” situations affecting our historic assets in the city of Newburyport, i.e. demolition, as well as protecting downtown Newburyport, the restoration of which is responsible for the revitalization of a once dying city.

A very well written article in the Newburyport Daily News about the the proposals sponsored by Councilors Katy Ives and Bob Cronin can be read here.

When Newburyport Looked Like a Slum

Newburyport 1967, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library (press image to enlarge)

Newburyport 1967, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library (press image to enlarge)

I was telling a business owner this week that Newburyport didn’t always look the way it looks now.  The business owner commutes from just outside Boston, and has had their business in Newburyport for over 10 years.  It was a complete shock to them that this now gorgeous place was literally in “shambles,” a slum in 1967.

The Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library graciously let me take photos of their archives of Newburyport from 1967-1974, HUD, NRA and Urban Renewal.  A link to the 54 photographs that I took from the Newburyport Archival Center can be found here.

(If you download the image would you please give The Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library and The Newburyport Blog credit.  Thank you.)

Newburyport, Inn Street, 1974

Inn Street, 1974 (press image to enlarge)

Inn Street, 1974 (press image to enlarge)

Inn Street, downtown Newburyport, 1974 (press image to enlarge)
Courtesy of the Archives at the Newburyport Public Library.

(If you download the image would you please give The Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library and The Newburyport Blog credit.  Thank you.)

Newburyport, Two Views of Pleasant Street

Two views of Newburyport’s Downtown, Pleasant Street from two different time periods.

Unitarian Church, Pleasant Street, 1929, courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department (press image to enlarge)

Unitarian Church, Pleasant Street, 1929, courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Print Department (press image to enlarge)

Church of the First Religious Society in Newburyport (Unitarian), Newburyport, MA
Boston Public Library, Print Department, 1929
Leon H. Abdalian, photographer
Glass Negative

Newburyport's Pleasant Street

Newburyport's Pleasant Street (press image to enlarge)

Newburyport’s Pleasant Street from upper Inn Street, March 1, 1974
Courtesy of the Archives at the Newburyport Public Library.

And this Sunday, October 28, 2012, author and architect Jonathan Hale talks about his 40-year love affair with Newburyport, “Newburyport is a Work of Art: Why its Architecture is Rare and Irreplaceable.” The program is sponsored by the Newburyport Preservation Trust, and it is at 4 p.m. at the Custom House Maritime Museum, Water Street, Newburyport.

(If you download an image would you please give The Boston Public Library or The Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library and The Newburyport Blog credit.  Thank you.)

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, the NRA’s New Plan

A friend and I were talking yesterday, and they asked me what did I think of the new NRA’s proposal for Newburyport’s waterfront.

And I said, “I don’t know.”

And they said, “I don’t know.”

We’ve both lived in Newburyport for over 30 years and watched the ongoing NRA waterfront saga.

We both agreed that for the “Citizens for an Open Waterfront” (COWs as they have often been referred to over the many, many decades that this has gone on) having an open waterfront is a religion.  And there are many, many folks in town that I know, like and respect very much, that feel fervently that nothing ever should be built on that piece of property.

Mayor Holaday was elected some 3 years ago over James Shanley in part because she was for an “Open Waterfront.”  She won, and I thought at the time, Ok we can finally get on with that idea.

But the “new” idea proposed by then candidate James Shanley (now chair of the NRA, appointed by governor Deval Partrick), of having limited building on the NRA parcel to pay for the open space has gained, yup, traction.

I got out the old photo I have courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Newbury, or as it’s known in Newburyport as “The HIST,” of the NRA lots, c 1920, way before Newburyport’s Urban Renewal took place (click image below to enlarge), and there is no open space at all in what once existed before the bulldozers came in the late 1960s.

NRA land c. 1920, courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Newbury, press to enlarge.

NRA land c. 1920, courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Newbury, press image to enlarge.

And my friend and I compared it to the new proposal by the NRA (click image below to enlarge), and we both agreed that there was a fair amount of open space, and that it looked reasonable.

NRA plans, 2012, courtesy of the NRA, press image to enlarge.

NRA plans, 2012, courtesy of the NRA, press image to enlarge.

NRA plans, 2012, courtesy of the NRA, press image to enlarge.

NRA site plan, aerial view, courtesy of the NRA. Press image to enlarge.

NRA site plan, aerial view, courtesy of the NRA. Press image to enlarge.

NRA site plan, aerial view, courtesy of the NRA, press image to enlarge.

I guess the question now is, “What is considered open space on Newburyport’s waterfront’s NRA lots?”  Lots and lots of open space, or open space, but less open space, with a plan to pay for it (and a park would be wicked expensive).

And for me, will this NRA saga finally be resolved, which I would like a lot, or will it never be resolved in my lifetime, and continue to be a Newburyport political third rail? Hang on to your hats, we’ll find out.

A couple of more images, courtesy of the NRA, for clarification:

NRA lots, aerial view, courtesy of the NRA, press image to enlarge

NRA lots, aerial view, courtesy of the NRA, press image to enlarge

An aerial view of the NRA lots as they are today, courtesy of the NRA. Press image to enlarge.

Boundaries of the NRA land, courtesy of the NRA. Press image to enlarge.

Boundaries of the NRA land, courtesy of the NRA. Press image to enlarge.

Delineation of the property boundaries, of the NRA, the Waterfront Trust and the Ways to the Water as well as an approximate low water mark.  Courtesy of the NRA, press image to enlarge.

To see the entire presentation of the new plans for the NRA lots, given at the Firehouse on September 12, 2012, press here (takes a while to load).

Preservation is in the Business of Saving Communities

Preservation is in the business of saving communites

Preservation is in the business of saving communities

Newburyport preservation quotes:

“There may have been a time when preservation was about saving an old building here and there, but those days are gone. Preservation is in the business of saving communities and the values they embody.”

—Richard Moe, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Newburyport, Demolition on High Street

182 High, courtesy of the City of Newburyport

182 High Street, courtesy of the City of Newburyport

The strange story of 182 High Street.

182 High Street has been lovingly restored by its present owner.  The property contains a beautiful 200+ year old carriage barn, which the owner wanted to restore in 2010.  The owner jumped  through many hoops, as anyone who has done such a thing knows – Zoning Board, Planning Board, Historical Commission,  and just a few feet short of the finishline, withdrew the application to continue the project.

Public record shows that the boards and commissions in the city were enthusiastic about the project.  Public records show that the Planning Board thanked the applicant and their team, noted the applicant’s sensitivity toward the historical nature of the property, the reduction of occupancy level and preservation of historical structures. (January 12, 2010).

In July of 2012, however, the owner chose to demolish the beautiful carriage barn at 182 High Street.  A one year demo delay was imposed.  Head scratching all around.

In January 2010 public record shows that the owner wanted to make every attempt to preserve and rehabilitate all the historical aspects of the carriage barn, and to ensure that it would be in keeping with the restoration that was being done on the Federal Period home.

To do what the homeowner desired from a zoning point of view, requires  something called “public benefit.”  The public benefit in 2010 was, without any question on anyone’s part, including the homeowner’s – historic preservation.

If the carriage barn at 182 High is indeed demolished and a new structure built in its place, the owner would still be required to show “public benefit,” as well as go through all the zoning and planning board hoops.  The attorney for the owner was able to say with a straight face, that the public benefit could be affordable housing.

More head scratching all around.  The stated goal in 2010 was to use the structure as a guest house for visiting family members.  Affordable housing would eliminate that possibility, and affordable housing on High Street?? like having affordable housing on Park Avenue. Happy neighbors?? one wonders.

One of the ironies here is that the significantly historical house in Newbury, the Tappan House, bought for 1.6 million dollars, was demolished for a swimming pool, but the barn was kept to be made into, yup, you got it, a guest house.

The historical write-up of the 1792 home at 182 High Street can be found on the city’s website here.

Home in Newburyport Under Pressure to be Demolished for Profit

284 Water Street, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport

284 Water Street, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport

“The property, built in 1810, is assessed at $810,700, according to city records. It is a Georgian-style residence with nine rooms (four bedrooms) and two fireplaces. Size of the house is 2,723 square feet, and the structure has unobstructed views of the inlet across Water Street. Several smaller buildings are also on the property…

Abutters at the commission meeting suggested that an owner could get that much or more if owners tore it down, and offered a clear lot to a buyer who might build a larger structure.

The application requests a permit for “demolition of a single-family home, garage, barn and shed…”

“Newburyport’s equivalent of the Tappan House tear-down in Newbury.” – a reference to a significant historic home in Newbury that was bought for 1.6 million dollars and demolished to build a pool (information about the former Tappan House can be read here).

The entire story in the Newburyport Daily News can be read here.

The photo of 284 Water Street is courtesy of the City of Newburyport, and the photo and historic write-up of the home can be read here.

Current photos of the property can be seen here.

And a YouTube video of 284 Water Street can be seen here.

Newburyport Under Pressure to Develop Real Estate for Profit

56 High Street, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport

56 High Street, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport

“Sure, we can still have homeowner’s rights and the proposed LHD provides for this. But more than ever before, the City of Newburyport is under pressure to develop real estate for profit, not just for its people and the quality of life. This city has become a destination specifically because of its historical support for preservation, not despite its history.”

Peter Erickson, Newburyport Daily News, Viewpoint can be read here

Peter Erickson is a former chair of the Newburyport Historic Commission and has lived on High Street for 24 years. Peter Erickson’s family home on High Street. Photo courtesy of the City of Newburyport which can be seen with the entire write-up about the property here (photo was taken in 1980).