Newburyport’s Central Waterfront

I gotta say that it’s great fun taking a computer break and then being able to check out Tom Salemi’s blog, Newburyport Posts. I get a big kick out of it.

Newburyport Posts has been discussing the possibility of not having a park/parking on the Central Waterfront but mixed-use building.


Some history here. The fight for an Open Waterfront and not a hotel was fierce and ended up in court. And I can’t sight particular sources here, but it is my remembrance that Mr. Foster paid a fortune fighting that legal battle, eventual losing, and during the recession of the early 1990’s the Lagasses bought up much of what Roger Foster owned downtown, shall we say, for a “fair price.”

The 2 questionnaires that went out did not include the option of mixed-use building, i.e. retail and residential space, but it was all about a hotel or an open waterfront. (Folks please feel free to email me with clarifications on all of this very complicated, decades, long history.) (Please see Editor’s note at the bottom of the post.)

It is my own humble opinion that way back whenever that was, that was the time to discuss other options, not now.

I have a vague memory (again clarification may be needed) that when Nick Cracknell was Newburyport Planning Director, it was thought that from a city planning point of view, that mix-used on the Central Waterfront could make long-range sense.

However, to do something of that magnitude, would take incredible political will, complete consensus (good luck on that one, it’s only been how many decades now?), and a consistency in the corner office and in the Newburyport Planning Office (again, could be unlikely).

This would be my guess–that if the chit-chat of mixed-use on the Central Waterfront actually gets some traction, we could see the Moak parking folks and the pro-Open Waterfront folks come to an agreement lightening fast, and together fight like crazy against a mixed-use concept.

And I would be correct on my prediction (please press here for earlier post) that the Central Waterfront would never be completed in my lifetime.

At the moment, as it stands, I could actually lose that bet with myself. Because it looks like a meeting of the minds, a consensus, could actually be a possibility.

(And don’t forget all the folks who want a senior center on the Central Waterfront as well.)

And just for argument’s sake, it would be my feeling that having open space in that area, would be very much of an economic booster. This is not just any vista, but a chance to get a gander at the mouth of the mighty Merrimac River, with all its power, its beauty, its strength, its drama and its sense of hope and possibility, churning its way to the vast Atlantic Ocean.

There are not many such panoramas. And this one certainly consciously and/or unconsciously gives hope to my soul, and is one of the reasons that I like to live here so much. And I would imagine that concept could be applicable to other souls as well.

Mary Eaton

Editor’s Note: Corrections and clarifications can be found on a later entry. Please press here to see that post.

I’ve used the phrase “Central Waterfront” to reference the two NRA waterfront lots. The “Waterfront” or “Waterfront West” and “Waterfront East” would be the property owned by Mr. Karp and New England Development. The “Waterfront” is also often used to describe the whole “shebang” down there along the might mouth of the Merrimac River.