'No negatives:' Long-time Planning Board member pleased with Port's progress
By Stephanie Wareham
Getting Acquainted With ... Peter DeMaranville
Today, Newburyport's waterfront is one of the city's premier attractions with its upscale restaurants, theater, outdoor park, galleries and newly expanded boardwalk.
But Peter DeMaranville, who has served on Newburyport's Planning Board for 28 years, remembers when the waterfront was far from pristine.
DeMaranville moved to Newburyport in the early 1950s. His father operated J.J. Newberry, a five-and-dime store on Pleasant Street, where Newburyport Card and Gift now stands.
"Back then, the waterfront was not developed at all," DeMaranville, 64, remembered. "It was almost a trash dump."
Discarded items were found in heaps along the edge of the river, including old refrigerators, stoves, tires, building materials, broken glass or anything else of no use.
At the time, Newburyport, Lowell and Haverhill didn't have sewage treatment plants, and the cities' raw sewage poured untreated into the river, he said.
Even more decrepit than the waterfront was Newburyport's downtown.
"It really was a run-down area, no question about it," DeMaranville said. "Inn Street was really a tough area to look at. All of the buildings were right out to the edge of the street."
That included The Daily News, which was located on Inn Street at the time.
"It was a pretty dilapidated building," DeMaranville said of the newspaper's old headquarters.
Of course, all that would change. And DeMaranville, as a Planning Board member, would have a hand in it.
DeMaranville graduated from Newburyport High School in 1958 and attended Boston University. He served in the Marines and eventually moved back to Newburyport with his wife, Kim. They have two children, Steven and Heidi, now grown.
In 1976, a friend asked DeMaranville to fill an empty position on Newburyport's Planning Board. He's been there ever since.
"I have to say, in those days, I had no idea about planning and development," he said. "But I always felt, as a member of a community, you should give back."
Of all the changes he's seen over the years, DeMaranville said, perhaps the most significant were the changes he saw when he first joined the board and Byron Matthews was mayor.
"He brought an awful lot of federal funding into the city," DeMaranville said. "If you can see Newburyport when I (was young) and see it today, it's just such a vast difference."
Over the years, he counts the Planning Board's successes as helping with the revitalization of downtown, the waterfront and development of the industrial park.
He said Newburyport has also benefited from having the commuter rail service reinstated.
A consummate optimist, DeMaranville said he really doesn't remember any negatives over the years.
For the future, DeMaranville said he would like to see the redevelopment of the waterfront completed.
"I'd like to see the city get a plan in place that will help us all," he said.
Such a plan, he said, should include marine-related businesses, a downtown park, a hotel and an expanded boardwalk.
"The plan should take advantage of the beauty that we have here," he said.
He believes a hotel would be one of the more critical aspects of that plan, in that it would bring in visitors for longer stays, helping the merchants and the city at large.
"I think it would be a real boost for this city in terms of revenue coming in," he said.
DeMaranville believes progress in developing the waterfront has been impeded by special interest groups.
"I do believe that if people could just lighten up a little bit," he said, "this city could become one of the best in the eastern United States in terms of tourism, viability and business."
DeMaranville said he also would like to see continued ventures in the industrial park and perhaps another assisted living facility for the elderly in Newburyport.
"I just don't see any negatives at all in terms of where we're headed," he said.
But DeMaranville will not be participating in those changes as a member of the Planning Board. He said he will be retiring, most likely in February or March.
His company Schooner Financial Associates assumed the investment portfolio of First and Ocean National Bank prior to its merger.
"My business has increased to the point that I don't have any time any more," he said. "I've had to miss meetings in the past year and it's just not fair."
He said he wants to stay on through the completion of the waterfront proposal by March 1.
DeMaranville said he will always look back and be proud of what he has helped accomplish.
"We've cleaned up the waterfront; we have a great downtown, a good school system, great fire and police departments.
"It's been a great place for me to live and to bring up my children. I just can't tell you enough how much I love living here."
(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)