Newburyport, Massachusetts, Storey Avenue as a Possible “Village Center”

Here’s a little urban development fantasy of mine. What if………..

The commercial area of Storey Avenue was able to evolve into Newburyport’s second village center? What would it look like? Why would we want it that way? What would be the upside/downsides?

Here’s how it might look:

I’m talking about the residential condos and apartments behind Duncan Donuts as well as the residential areas along Ferry Street, Low Street, and Storey Ave itself as being the ‘catchments’ area of the new village, supplying the foot and vehicle traffic to support “village life”. I’m also including the retail areas of the two malls along with the services, restaurants, and commercial activities on the backside along Low Street. I’m talking about linking it altogether by some sort of design flow from area to area and encouraging the mix of activity that begins to make it a real village.

Here’s what could be added to make it start the process of evolving into a village: Walking paths, side walk and minor traffic light adjustments and a more defined ‘street’ like pattern inside the retail areas. This is at its simplest level a matter of paint and signage changes. I’d include a name adjustment so we start calling it “Storey Village.”

Some new components would be nice. How about a multi functional civic resource center so that people are not always driving and parking in our historic waterside center for every little thing governmental. One small branch of city government could include a small library, the ability to pay traffic fines, pull a permit, register to vote, or have occasional meetings with city councilors, planning boards, etc.

I’d like to see sidewalk cafes in summer. Another reason to have sidewalks! What else? How about a bookstore, maybe a branch of one of our great independents? Maybe a small walk in medical clinic? Maybe a “not quite an emergency room” staffed by AJ or Pentucket? A branch post office would be nice and it would free up Pleasant Street traffic as people jockey for parking and it would allow the merchants of Pleasant Street to have the foot traffic they need.

We could put a visitors center there and in summer provide jitney rides to the waterfront and ease the crush during our high season.

Why do it? We’re going to develop and grow anyway, this path would provide a “smart growth” solution. It would free up some routine city center traffic and alleviate parking downtown. It would save energy, as a number of residents of the area would choose to walk not drive. It would raise property taxes as more infill of the malls took place and some of the homes and apartments on the edges rose in value.

It’s not an especially architecturally significant section of the city and we could see some 21st century ideas as well as inoculating against too much change in the historic downtown area.

Why not? I see lots of upside. Off course the process of change is hard, key choices and tradeoff need to be made, but in the end “Storey Village” sounds more like another great place in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Ron Martino, Newburyport