All Empires crumble. Newburyport has done so a few times. It rose from the ashes of a Great fire. When ship building died, it built a factory and mill economy. It rebuilt as well as it could after a second great fire and clung to life until surrendering to Urban Renewal. A couple of dozen acres of old Newburyport succumbed to the wreckers.
Enter the new age of ‘redevelopment’. A stay of execution and just like that, Newburyport gets transformed into the wine and cheese ‘Empire’ of the North Shore.
I had the pleasure of growing up in a city ‘Rich’ in the diversity of it’s population. It was crumbling and braced up for sure. A friend who’s family’s business was taken by eminent domain in the path of greedy destruction in the 1960s commented, “Newburyport was a ‘Dump’, but it was ‘Our’ dump”…
It has become the domain of those less interested in ‘community’ who seem to be in the pursuit of recreating Newburyport in their own image.
The results have not been well received by those who maintained the Yankee City with their work and toil. On any given day when the weather is accommodating, a stroll through downtown will treat one to a proliferation of sidewalk encroaching businesses catering to those in need of a ‘libation’.
Yes, you ‘CAN’ drink booze in ‘PUBLIC’ in downtown Newburyport… You can find enough ‘Wine and Cheese’ to last a lifetime. What you can’t find are ‘practical’ ‘realistic’ stores selling things that ‘real’ people need.
I challenge anyone to a shopping trip in the downtown ‘retail’ district to buy the following things; a hammer and nails, a bag of white T shirts, a pair of winter boots, an ink pen and a ‘steno’ note pad, ‘GROCERIES’… And I’m not talking ‘Tourist’ prices here , realistic, practical things that real people in a real community need and use.
Go ahead and over develop the open spaces along the waterfront. Rezone the retail district as just that. Relocate the ‘tourist’ district to the waterfront. Attract people to a city where real people can live and afford. Do families with children need to see all the sidewalk ‘bars’ with sloppy drunk patrons right out on the streets? And no place to buy the things a downtown needs to be selling. Newburyport has smelled the money and it’s a frenzy of over building to cash in on the ‘Beautiful People’.
Make Newburyport Great Again. It may not be too late to show that million dollar investment properties and trendy trinket shops are not for the betterment of the people who soon will be priced out of Newburyport the same way my neighbors were. Progress ‘needn’t’ be ‘exclusive’. Recreating a once proud if not ‘weary’ city should be the goal of anyone in the corner office at City Hall. Newburyport needs to be for ‘anyone’ to be able to live in and comfortably enjoy.