Newburyport, MA, the Integrity and the Fate of our City

I have had this conversation with many folks, always folks who have moved to Newburyport, MA “recently.” And by recently that could be 7 years to a month ago.

The question is, “So what if Stephen Karp’s plan is high-end homogenization. Why would that not be good for Newburyport, MA. Wouldn’t the economic prosperity that would ensue, be a bottom line in helping out our small New England city financially?”

There are any number of levels on which to respond to that question. Buy Local addresses some of the economic concerns, which people may not agree with (see Tom Salemi’s blog, Newburyport Posts).

When Roger Foster bought so much of the downtown property, whether one agreed with Mr. Foster’s goals or not (wanting a hotel on the Central Waterfront, on the NRA property), the land was owned by someone who had an emotional attachment to Newburyport.

When that land was bought by Chuck and Ann Lagasse, many people were concerned on the one hand, but on the other, again these were 2 people who lived within the community, had strong community ties, and also had what appeared to be a strong emotional attachment to Newburyport, MA.

For both Roger Foster and Chuck and Ann Lagasse, whether one agreed with the approach or not, there appeared to be a certain “integrity” in the ownership of the land. Both could have been seen as “family-run” businesses, interested about the bottom line, but also having a balance of being involved in and caring about the community of Newburyport, MA.

But this is what it feels like to me. This large piece of land (that contains over “50 retail properties in downtown Newburyport and along the waterfront,” New England Development’s website) has gone from being run as a family-run affair, to being owned by a very large and ambitious corporate entity, with no emotional attachment to Newburyport, MA, whose focus would solely be on the bottom line.

And although I hear all the time, that Ann and Chuck Lagasse are in charge for a reason, to maintain integrity, I do not buy it. That is my opinion.

It is my opinion that there has to be a business plan, and that business plan would have to come from the top, i.e. New England Development. And the way that the business appears now to be structured, it is my opinion that the Lagasses could not possibly have the last say, and final input, which would include input from the community, in what would happen to the fate of Newburyport, MA.

It is my opinion, that the emotional attachment and the “integrity” of the ownership, have been greatly compromised.

Mary Eaton