Homogenization and High Street

One of the things that popped into my brain when I was thinking about Mr. Karp and “High-End Homogenization” (see previous post) was what the Massachusetts Highway Department had in mind in 1998 for High Street, our historic byway.

“Making High Street as straight and uniform as possible from one end of the city to the other.” (Citizens to Save High Street, January 1999)

And good old Microsoft Word’s definition of “homogeneous” again: “Having a uniform composition or structure.”

The idea of making High Street, with all its beauty, charm, and historic qualities, “uniform” enraged the citizens of Newburyport, MA in 1999, to the point where the city was unified in their fight for the historic roadway, the gateway to our small New England City.

Part of the outrage was that MassHighway’s plan would have wiped out part of the story of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Would have wiped out the small incremental things that had evolved over the centuries, that made High Street unique.

Wouldn’t we as citizens be equally outraged by an economic “high -end homogenization” of downtown Newburyport by yet another “outsider,” who would be imposing a business plan for Newburyport, without the input, much less the blessing of its citizens?

Yes, I realize that Mr. Karp and New England Development have paid millions of dollars for the downtown and waterfront property, so in some way “it’s out of our hands,” and “none of our business.” But, one could argue that a change to a community of that magnitude, would be very much “our business.”

The change to downtown Newburyport appears to be happening not in one fell swoop. We could see the plans for High Street, and realize the long term implication.

The change to downtown Newburyport appears to be much more subtle, happening slowly and incrementally. My remembrance is that New England Development has always been very upfront about this approach, never saying that the development of Waterfront West (and now Waterfront East) would be done all at once, but more likely over a period of 10 years or so.

But in someway having an overall plan to see, would be much more beneficial to the citizens of Newburyport, MA, than an incremental development, where one does not have the privilege of seeing, right off the bat, a “master plan.”

But we still have the option, before it is too late, of an economic overlay for downtown Newburyport, MA. And again, it is a matter of “political will.”

Mary Eaton