Newburyport took a whole lot of prime waterfront parking spots to develop a park, prompting a serious controversy

The Boston Globe

The town not too long ago took a whole lot of prime waterfront parking spots to develop a park. The mud continues to be settling.

Individuals waited for a piece of boardwalk to reopen as building continued on an enlargement of Market Touchdown Park, within the coronary heart of downtown Newburyport. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Employees

NEWBURYPORT — Andy Port was strolling alongside the waterfront on a latest afternoon, simply subsequent to the development website in Market Touchdown Park that’s the middle of a serious controversy brewing on this metropolis, when he discovered himself cornered by 4 exasperated residents.

“You’re taking an excessive amount of!” a person complained to Port, town’s director of planning and growth.

“No one makes use of the inexperienced area we have already got,” a lady lamented.

Port did his finest to be diplomatic, acknowledging their considerations and pointing on the market had been years of public hearings on the enlargement of town’s riverfront park. However he was not going to win over this crowd, for that enlargement had come on the expense of a whole lot of coveted downtown parking spots.

“Are we positive we’re doing the proper factor?” one of many males requested, echoing a query requested by many for the reason that building fencing went up in August.

Right here’s what’s happening: Newburyport has begun transforming the 4.6-acre Market Touchdown Park alongside the Merrimack River in its touristy downtown. The preliminary modifications will join a motorbike path, create berms for higher water viewing, and develop the general inexperienced area. However to try this, it is going to take out a big chunk of two parking tons, one on the east aspect of the location, and one on the west.

The dispute echoes others flaring in cites and cities across the state, the place communities have gotten extra pleasant to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation, however typically on the expense of drivers.

Adam Re, of Hampton, held his 3-month-old daughter, Lily, as they hung out in Market Touchdown Park, within the coronary heart of downtown Newburyport. JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF

Among the not too long ago eliminated parking spots in Newburyport will return after the $6 million phase-one building is completed within the spring. The east lot, which had 176 spots, can have 109; the west lot, which had 80 spots, will drop to 49. Future phases of the park mission, that are unfunded in the intervening time and would face steep headwinds based mostly on the present controversy, name for the elimination of much more spots.

However as metropolis leaders have identified repeatedly, there received’t be — in principle at the very least — a web lack of parking areas in downtown, in the event you issue within the 200-car storage a few blocks away that town constructed a couple of years in the past.

But many retailers say the development and lack of parking have created a chaotic scene downtown, one which has pushed away clients and develop into a nightmare for his or her staff. The town fees an hourly price for all the general public areas downtown, together with the waterfront tons and the brand new storage, however many employees pay $240 per 12 months for an worker parking move that’s now troublesome to make use of. The town not too long ago introduced that these staff will be capable to park in a portion of a close-by municipal lot, however not till Nov. 1, when the autumn vacationer season is over.

“It’s crushed our enterprise. We’re extremely depending on foot visitors, and it’s gone from sturdy to bust,” stated Walter Beede, who co-owns Finders Keepers, a consignment boutique throughout the road from the park. “The entire attract of Newburyport is the waterfront and the boats and all of the eating places downtown, and now they need you to park a mile away on a aspect road and hope you don’t get a ticket. They’ve taken what made this metropolis come alive within the final 15 years and so they’ve stepped on it.”

Proponents acknowledge there might be some non permanent ache. However they argue that the long-term positive factors from the reconfigured park and new storage will make town much more pedestrian-friendly, getting folks parked and out of their vehicles earlier than they get into the small downtown. It’s an strategy, Port stated, efficiently utilized by Portsmouth, N.H., 20 miles to the north.

The brand new Newburyport storage, which is on Titcomb Avenue, is between Route 1 — the primary entry level for town – and the downtown, simply two blocks earlier than the west lot on the waterfront.

“The storage was constructed to get parking off the waterfront, and the fact is that change is difficult,” stated Heather Shand, president of the Metropolis Council and chairperson of the committee that oversaw the park enlargement. “As soon as we get via this primary part of building, persons are going to understand the beautiful, well-thought-out park that we’ll have.”

A newly constructed storage at 2 Titcomb St. in Newburyport. Metropolis officers are hoping folks will park right here after town expands the inexperienced area in Market Touchdown Park. JESSICA RINALDI/GLOBE STAFF

A lot of the parking strain has subsided now that Labor Day is within the rear view, however many enterprise house owners nonetheless aren’t shopping for the long-term imaginative and prescient.

“We want these waterfront tons and the storage,” stated Wendy Smith, proprietor of Merely Candy, a sweet and ice cream store on Inn Avenue. “They’re filled with it, saying that taking all these areas received’t have an effect on us, as a result of it does and it’ll. How is popping it into inexperienced area going to be a giant boon? How? I’m not understanding that.”

She echoed a criticism of others that the park solely sees heavy use throughout two huge festivals: Yankee Homecoming, and RiverFest (which moved throughout the river to Salisbury this 12 months due to the development). The remainder of the time, they stated, it’s a smattering of joggers and canine walkers, or pedestrians on the picket boardwalk alongside the water, which might be unchanged within the transforming.

“I’m all for inexperienced area,” stated Stacy Vater, the workplace supervisor for Stone Ridge Properties, throughout from the east parking lot. “However I’m simply uncertain how this inexperienced area will assist town once we additionally want parking for companies to remain open and thrive.”

On a latest day, as building crews rumbled close by, Port completed his impromptu grilling by the involved residents and led a reporter on a stroll via the park, attempting to color an even bigger image.

“The Metropolis Council and the mayor had been balancing 1,000,000 totally different parameters with this plan, and so they can’t fulfill everybody, nevertheless it’s a mischaracterization to say this can be a lack of parking,” he stated. “The downtown bought depending on floor parking, however in extra, and we had been creating different issues by dedicating this prime downtown area to the automobile.”

It’s not a parking problem; it’s a philosophical problem, he stated. And everybody has their very own philosophies for the way forward for Newburyport.