Newburyport is the essence of charm. Our small coastal town is blessed with historic appeal, magnificent waterways and beaches, performing arts centers, and a downtown with excellent restaurants and shops.
But something is missing.
We have a marina area in great need of improvement—the 5.7 acres owned by New England Development with the potential of bringing more vibrancy to the downtown with a mixed-use development, Waterfront West, that proposes a waterfront hotel with enough space to accommodate a healthy dose of tourism to ensure economic vitality and sustainability in our community, attractive waterfront residential units, and retail that enhances the downtown, not competes with it.
The proposal would also provide a new public plaza to gather, create connectedness in the community by linking the pedestrian walkway from the harbor walk to Clipper City Rail Trail, and expand the downtown footprint to complement State Street and the Tannery Marketplace retail spaces.
The Waterfront West project represents a $100 million investment in the community from New England Development.
In my view, we all need to work together to bring this needed project to closure with approval of required zoning, followed by Special Permit public hearing process that will make Waterfront West the best project possible.
Based on community feedback, New England Development has communicated intent to modify the current design in places as it applies to height, density and resiliency. New England Development and its CEO Stephen Karp have pledged to work closely with the City of Newburyport, its residents and businesses to provide a treasured piece of architecture that best serves our community and its values. New England Development will also revisit the incorporation of LEED elements to create the most environmentally-friendly, highly efficient and healthy building spaces possible.
Benefits from this project are impressive. Waterfront West, among other things, would:
- Provide more than $1,200,000 annual gross revenues for Newburyport based on a Fiscal Impact Analysis.
- Increase local room tax revenue by 70%, increase the City’s tax base by 1.6%, increase property tax revenues by 1.7%.
- Add new jobs to the Newburyport market.
- Offer 12% affordable/workforce housing in residential units.
In an effort to provide a public platform on this topic, the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce hosted a breakfast forum recently at the Newburyport Senior Community Center and facilitated a presentation by New England Development on the Waterfront West redevelopment project. Stephen Karp, one of Massachusetts’s most successful business executives and civic leaders, addressed over 100 attendees.
“We’re working with the Planning Department and the City Council, and we’re trying to resolve some of those issues and people’s concerns…I think we’re listening,” Mr. Karp said.
New England Development has been an excellent community partner over the years, investing more than $1.5 million in the local economy through philanthropic efforts among local nonprofits and community groups. New England Development investment in Newburyport also provides 85 full-time jobs and an additional 120 seasonal jobs. With the multi-million-dollar investment in the public waterfront, the new plaza will create more jobs, and generate visitor spending and economic vibrancy in the community.
As the Chamber President, my sole responsibility is to ensure that businesses in Newburyport and surrounding communities have the opportunity to thrive. We have come a long way over the years in revitalizing our downtown area, expanding our public transportation systems; and now it’s time to complete the circle. Strengthening our economy and business landscape through the tourism sector will drive revenue, create jobs and build critical infrastructure in our City. As a result, residents will have a better quality of life.
Smart, quality growth is the wise choice for sustainability and economic vitality in Newburyport. Staying the same in a time of never-ending change and innovation results in falling behind the curve. It means surrounding towns and cities will receive the tourism dollars, host more weddings and festivals, and will have better schools, roads and bridges. We need to work together as a community to promote policies that bring in the prosperity that the town seeks, while maintaining our distinctive character and deep-rooted historical culture.
I will continue to work closely with visionaries who support the needs of Newburyport and help to rejuvenate our waterfront, and I hope you will be part of this redevelopment project, provide constructive input and join me in saying that we built this together.
I encourage everyone reading this letter to consider how you may contribute to the success of this project, for instance: If you are in favor of the project, how can you brighten your voice among the community and help educate others on the benefits of this project and encourage the Council to rezone this site? Or if you have questions about this redevelopment, how can you offer ideas as a solution?
Newburyport must grow in good ways such as this to withstand the test of time. Let’s support our business owners, our neighbors and our future generations by securing a high-quality Waterfront West project that will bring Newburyport something to be proud of.
Frank G. Cousins, Jr.
President/CEO, Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry