New England Development and Downtown Newburyport

“Most of it is ostensibly utterly trivial, but the sum is not trivial at all. The sum of such casual, public contact at the local level. . . most of it fortuitous, most of it associated with errands . . . is a feeling for the public identity of people, a web of public respect and trust, and a resource in time of personal or neighborhood need. The absence of this trust is a disaster to a city street.”

“The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, by Jane Jacobs from the website of

It’s Mr. Karp again.

I had an email conversation with an elected official who met with Ann Lagasse recently. What I took away from my email conversation would be something that many folks could be happy seeing develop in Newburyport, MA.

Basically that New England Development (NED) is thinking of stuff like the store on Middle and State Streets– “independently owned or small-chain outfits that offer something that complements, not detracts from, the existing retail mix of downtown….”

That…”help bolster the downtown, and who stand a good chance of making it.”

And my email friend says that they would “doubt very seriously we will be seeing anything that is low to mid market.”

And that “New England Development chose to invest in Newburyport (the Lagasses) because it is working and is successful. They see no reason to change what is obviously not broken.” (Excerpts from this email have been used with permission.)

The shop at Middle and State Streets (see earlier entry) confirms the above statements.

However, this doesn’t mean that I do not have some reservations.

Ms Lagasse is in charge of leasing the stores in downtown Newburyport, but Mr. Karp owns them. He owns “us.” (“Newburyport, Fifty top retail properties in downtown Newburyport and along the waterfront,” is listed on NED’s website under “Portfolio”.)

And, Mr. Karp may be very “good willed” and have very “good intentions,” but he is not part of our everyday, “trivial” lives. And that is important for trust, major community trust.

It has to do, for me, with the very confusing times we live in. A dehumanizing thing seems to be taking place.

Bill Moyers in his speech, “What Adam Said to Eve” (see earlier entry) talks about the “corporations that largely control our media and telecommunications systems,” and the chilling effect that has had on journalism.

And it feels to me that with luck that we may have a “benevolent” corporation as a landlord, but it would still be a corporation (New England Development, Mr. Karp) that would control so much of our downtown.

It would, for me, be the opposite of community. First of all I’m not big on monopolies, and to state the obvious, personally I don’t think it’s healthy to have someone or anyone control that much of Newburyport, MA.

And one does not meet (although one might meet its representative, Mr. and Mrs Lagasse) a corporation, in this case, New England Development (NED) at the pharmacy, doing an errand downtown, or over vegetables at the supermarket. The “trivial” things that are part of community, neighborhood, that create empathy for the people inhabiting a particular place, our place.

Mary Eaton