A Measure of progress ~ Recent milestones ~
building a cairn as a benchmark to signify we have come this far ...
Link within to review the nomination of the Waterside community of Newburyport as one of Essex National Heritage Area's 100 regional milestones ~ and the ENHC certificate upon its select award.
The traders, shipbuilders and mariners and artificers who settled the Waterside community shared a vision ~ a timeless agenda memorialized in the Waterside people's petition which ~ granted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court under the provincial governor's seal on February 4, 1764 ~ resulted in the organization of the separate town of Newburyport. And so it was that the fifth generation of the Waterside people would formulate a Plan in Motion for generations to follow.

And so it is, as the Waterside people mark their thirteenth generational milestone.
This Web page offers a measure of change ~ a benchmark corroborated by the City of Newburyport Office of Planning and Development (OPD) ~ which describes their "doings" as follows:

The overall goal of the Office of Planning and Development is to enhance Newburyport's physical environment and improve the quality of life for all who live, work, and visit in Newburyport.

The Planning Office helps to translate into action the goals, objectives and vision for Newburyport as articulated by its residents and their elected and appointed Officials. Planning Office staff seeks community input and ideas in order to identify and reflect common goals, and advise elected and appointed officials. Office staff develops plans, policies, and projects to guide our City's physical and economic development, affordable housing, historic preservation, and environmental conservation. The Office works to solve problems, and create new places and opportunities for people to come together and enjoy our special community.

Indeed, Newburyport is a special place, rich in natural resources and historic architecture, both publically and privately owned. Yet, it is the people who "come together" in "Newburyport's physical environment" that make this a truly special community. Granted, community in the work (link within) encompasses both building and stumbling blocks ~ for it is acknowledged that building and maintaining that "City upon a Hill" can be a Sisyphean task. The foundation for progress must begin with solid groundwork and a firm footing ~ then built, stone by stone. Towards that end ...

The City of Newburyport planned and developed a number of ambitious policies and projects since the Waterside Plan in Motion was launched anew in 1999 ~ using as its guideline the City's Master Plan which was completed in 2001, just as Newburyport marked its 150-year milestone as a city form of government. These are benchmarked and remarked as follows:

Planning Processes and Implementation Plans

  • Master Plan - With its motto "Shaping our Future, Honoring our Past" ~ the City's Municipal Master Plan, completed in September 2001 with extensive community involvement, offers a guideline for managing growth and development. By analyzing its build-out potential and evaluating infrastructure needs and considering ways and means to better shape future development ~ the Master Plan's guidelines have been codified with new zoning ordinances ~ and implemented using site plan review and demolition delay ordinances in an effort to encourage preservation of historic structures. The link within provides a log of the accomplishments during the four years (2002 - 2006) of Planning Director Nick Cracknell's "translation into action its goals, objectives and vision."

  • Strategic Land Use Plan - As a corollary process to the Municipal Master Plan, the City initiated a $32,000 planning process in 2003 (funded primarily by a state grant) for the southern portion of the community that contains Newburyport's last undeveloped land as well as the industrial park and Route 1 gateway/commuter rail station (link without to LaserFiche Document Processing System).

  • Waterfront Strategic Plan - Waterfront Strategic Plan Additionally, in the spring of 2003, the City hired a consultant team for a $50,000 harbor and waterfront plan update (funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management) which focused on updating zoning to encourage appropriate new development in the Waterfront Mixed Use and Waterfront Marine Dependent zones. As a consequence, the Waterfront West Overlay District zoning ordinance was developed.r

    [The final version of the Waterfront West Overlay District zoning ordinance presented at January 5, 2005 Planning Board meeting included several edits to the original document on January 4. Based upon the public and board's input, additional edits were made on January 12, 2005. The ordinance, including changes to the WWOD, was subsequently presented for its first reading at at the January 31, 2005 City Council meeting (link without). At the February 14, 2005 City Council meeting, before its second reading, a motion to redact Section VII.A (pages 13 - 15 regarding off-street parking) of this WWOD zoning amendment was made by the Planning and Development Committee, effectively sending this section back to the Planning Board for review. As recorded at that City Council meeting's minutes found at this link within ~ given this redaction "with Councillors then expressing their support this zoning amendement and the process by which the community was able to have input into these amendments. On a roll call vote 11 yes ordinance passed second and final reading."]

  • Site Plan Review - The City updated and revised a site plan review ordinance to clarify and consolidate a comprehensive permitting and review process for development projects in Newburyport, intended to protect the City's significant architectural legacy ~ implementing a demolition delay ordinance for historic structures. (See links from the OPD Web page on the City Website.)

  • Federal Street Overlay District -In 2002-2003, the City worked closely with landowners, developers, and neighborhood groups to appropriately restore and redevelop historic homes and add new housing in the densely developed historic Federal Street area ~ and has used this process as a model for subsequent projects, including the recent Towle condominium development on Merrimac Street, adjacent to the old Towle factory which was restored a decade ago and converted into office space.

  • Geographic Information Systems - The City has developed a comprehensive GIS to assist in planning and the efficient delivery of services to the public. Elements include the City's utilities, landbase information such as topographic contours, wetlands, and forested areas, as well as buildings, roads, and parcels.

Community Development

  • Community Development Block Grant Fund (CDBG) - In the years 2002 and 2003, the city received grants of $400,000 and $625,000 (respectively) from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to undertake housing rehabilitation, social services, and public facilities benefiting low and moderate income residents.

  • Affordable Housing - The City selected a developer for the development of 22 units of housing - with 15 affordable units - on a vacant and blighted municipally-owned parcel of land on Merrimac Street.

  • Universal Access - The CDBG program has recently managed the installation of a number of new curb cuts/wheelchair ramps in the downtown area.

Renovation to Municipal Facilities

  • Public Library - The City recently completed a comprehensive renovation of and addition to the cherished Public Library, assisted by a $2.1 million grant from the MA Board of Library Commissioners. The overall project cost was $7.65 million, underwritten by private donations and a tax override.

  • High School Renovation/Expansion - Supported by a grant from the School Building Assistance program and a tax override, this $34 million project renovated and expanded the beloved high school. The school reopened in the fall of 2002 while final work continued, and in 2006, the contractor and the City are still in the midst of arbitration and litigation to resolve issues of incomplete and/or unsatisfactory work.

  • While the City reevaluates the Long Term Elementary (Building Needs) Plan (see below) ~ a number of needful interim measures have been taken to improve the elementary and middle school. To open the school year in the 2004, the City undertook long-needed replacement of the interim modular classrooms and other important maintenance at the Bresnahan Elementary School.
  • And the needs of the Rupert A. Nock Middle School cannot be ignored. The City Council recently approved funds for necessary repairs to the middle school's roof. When those repairs are completed this summer, the new science lab project ~ largely funded by the Institution for Savings Charitable Foundation grant ~ will proceed, ready for the when school commences in the fall of 2006. In tandem, using private fundraising, the RAN Middle School will pursue its Courtyard Project which is to be dedicated in the memory of teacher Nicki Staszewski.

  • Bonding has been approved to fund the needful restoration of City Hall's brownstone facade, with the bond to be served using Community Preservation Funds, a 2% tax override approved by the community and matched by the State. Meetings with the architects and restoration consultants will begin April 2006, with expectations that the project itself will begin mid-July.


  • Plum Island Water/Sewer Improvements - Working with the Town of Newbury to provide water and sewer service to Plum Island, the $24 million project is well underway. Breaking ground in the spring of 2004, the first phase of connections will begin sometime in 2006. Funded by a betterment fee assessed the new users, no-interest financing is being provided via the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

  • Stormwater Improvements - In addition to improvements to the aging water pumping stations, the City has made progress in developing and implementing a comprehensive stormwater management plan and regulatory program to minimize the adverse effects of stormwater on water resouces ~ in order to meet the water quality standards for rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands in the City and its vicinity, especially by preventing discharges of untreated wastewater and stormwater to these ecosystems.

  • Waterfront Boardwalk Renovation and Extension - The City reconstructed the Waterside's primary attraction: A boardwalk which ~ when completed in the late 1970s ~ became the heart of the community. The project which repaired the deteriorating structure and extended the eastern-most and western-most historic wayes to the Waterside to connect with the downtown was funded jointly by the City, State and local donations. Construction on this $2.4 million project was completed in the spring of 2003, and rededicated in memory of the late Mayor Peter Matthews (link within). The first revolving exhibit of contemporary sculpture on Somerby's Landing would be organized that fall (link without).

  • High Street Renovation - Partially funded through grants from the Commonwealth's MHD and EOTC, the City resurfaced historic High Street, one of Newburyport's primary arteries, and improved univeral access in a project that cost at least $1.4 million. Work on the roadway surface was completed in 2003-4, with streetscape and pedestrian improvements incorporated into the design. In concert with the Tree Committee, an effort to plant trees along the streetscape.

Parks and Recreation and Open Space

  • Cashman Park Revetment - The City also completed the reconstruction of a revetment to prevent further riverside erosion at Cashman Park, along with a new pedestrian pathway along the river's edge and improved boat ramps and disabled-access fishing docks. Community involvement resulted in the improvements to the neighborhood children's park. And as a consequence of negotations during the adjacent Towle condominium project, the developer has offered to move an historic barn to the site, which may provide long-awaited storage, a first step to implementing a community boating program at this location.

  • Bartlet Mall Promenade Restoration - The City received a matching grant from the state DEM Historic Landscape Program to restore the historic promenade on Bartlet Mall, its access and accoutrements, and restore the ecosystem of Frog Pond. Private funding had been raised in cooperation with the City Improvement Society to complete the renovation project. Compromise reached in the spring of 2006 regarding changes to the Kelley School playground area brings the project closer to completion: a stunning transformation.

  • Moseley Woods - The City received a matching grant from the state's Division of Conservation Services for a $200,000 project to restore the Moseley Woods park. The project, which began in the summer of 2003 and is now completed, offers a tranquil respite along the Merrimack River nearby the Chain Bridge and Deer Island.

  • Playing Fields Construction - As part of the development of Cherry Hill, the City secured a portion of the property for soccer fields and (potentially) a West End Elementary School. Leased to the Newburyport Youth Soccer Association, new playing fields were constructed with funds raised privately. The City and the NYSA are also examining the feasibility of reconstructing the playing fields at Cashman Park and considering other locations.

  • Playground Improvements - The City has been working systematically with neighborhood groups to renovate all of its playgrounds with new equipment, and continues to assist with projects that will be constructed with privately raised funds.

  • Perkins Park - The City is working with the Massachusetts Electric Company to improve Perkins Park's tennis courts and ballfield in conjunction with a hazardous waste site remediation project in 2003 and 2004.

  • Common (North) Pasture - In partnership with the Trust for Public Lands the City acquired the 102-acre North Pasture from Gotham Holdings (see link without) ~ bonding monies for this acquisition, the Rail Trail and the Herrick property, with that bond to be serviced by funds from the Community Preservation Act. In the spring of 2006, with a state-required management plan completed for the newly acquired Herrick property ~ reclaimed by Newbury and Newburyport as open space designated for passive recreation. The common ground will be heretofore known as "Coffin's Island."

  • Rail Trail - With funding assistance from two Massachusetts Highway Department grants, the City has negotiated with landowners to acquire land and/or permit use to design a bicycle and pedestrian trail which will link the Newburyport commuter rail station with downtown Newburyport, the waterfront and various neighborhoods. In late 2005, Community Preservation Act funds were used to procure the Guifford property, a key portion of the trail loop.

Future Considerations on the Horizon

  • Senior Center - The City is working with the State to obtain funding and secure a site for construction of a new Senior Center, which is estimated to cost a total of $1.5 million. In March 2006, overtures were made by the YWCA to locate and fund a multi-use facility, and will be given due consideration.

    As an alternative approach, a multi-use, multi-generational center would satisfy the need for a community center ~ and provide space for all generations of the Waterside people to interact together or as independent groups.

  • The current administration has targeted the fall of 2006 as a timeline to reevalate the approach to the Long Term Elementary Plan to address building needs.
  • Downtown Parking - With the assistance of a state PWED grant, during the library renovations and expansion, the City acquired an adjacent property (gas station on the corner of State and Harris Streets) and constructed a municipal off-street parking facility. In addition, the 1996 Transportation Bond Bill contained a $5 million authorization (extended to 2006) for establishment of a structured parking facility in Newburyport.

    After an extensive site selection process, the City worked with local officials, landowners, and funding agencies, but the proposal failed to gain acceptance, and lost traction with the 2005 political cycle. Under a new administration, the community must reconsider a short and long-term plan for municipal downtown parking, with a goal of moving a portion of the parking from the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) central waterfront lots. Distributing a survey to residences with the city census this spring, the NRA will evaluate the results and work in concert with City officials to implement a strategy, seeking consensus on what makes common (and environmental) sense for what is considered the crown jewel of Newburyport.

  • And further still, in regards to the environment, Newburyport may become a showcase for alternative and renewable energy ~ through public and private projects (examples of the latter being the 375 solar panel installation at The Tannery and newly constructed Mill No. 5) along with expansion into wind turbine and hydro-power energy sources.

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