I’m really disturbed by this new “infill” project at 325 High Street. This isn’t just any old street, (not that any of our streets are really “any old street”) but this is High Street, the “Grand Dame of Newburyport,” the amazing gateway to our small, historic city.
One of the things that concerns me is that as small properties in the Northend and Southend of Newburyport gradually get “eaten up,” what’s left for developers to make money on in Newburyport’s historic district is High Street.
There is a tremendous amount of land behind those gorgeous houses that are on the “Ridge” side of the street. 325 High Street is an excellent example. So is the Wheelwright House (again, I have no idea what is happening with that property.)
It would be incredibly ironic if having fought MassHighway so hard for the beauty and historic character of High Street, only to have it be marred by developers. Ouch.
Not to sound like a broken record here, but this sort of thing was something very much on the mind of former Planning Director, Nick Cracknell. And he was working on solutions to this dilemma. Like putting a zoning overlay on the front part of the “Ridge” (the area on High Street between State and Lime Street) to protect people from building in front of those beautiful houses. (You know, as a City we can still do that one.)
I’ve talked to people about putting on deed restrictions on their High Street properties. Some have actually done so. Others want the option of being able to sell to developers, because they know that that’s how they are going to make the most money.
Again, things felt a lot safer when Nick Cracknell was around, because at least I trusted him to come up with thoughtful and sometimes, to me, astounding solutions to what often seemed to me to be unsolvable dilemmas.
And frankly, I don’t think any of the alternatives (shown on the Undertoad Blog) are in anyway acceptable. Not even the one that shows the potential use of the new cluster zoning law, because it’s still a version of urban sprawl on High Street. Good grief.
And when I read that a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals was the seller, let’s just say that my blood pressure went way, way up. There is the New Yorker in me that just wants to shake my finger and go “honey, you should know better.”
So what do we do? Hope that Mayor John Moak comes up with a new planning director who can negotiate with developers, and architects and lawyers for the overall good of the city. We had one of those and he’s gone.
Mary Eaton, Newburyport