Hurrah for the Downtown Group!
I wanted to throw that out before I make the following true statements. This is a group that is composed of some powerful members of the Dark Side. Picture wolves in sheep’s clothing but instead of straggly loboes covered over by sheep skins we have instead well-brushed beasts with lovely knitted fashionable wool sweaters. There is one thing that the Dark Side have is money and they know where to get the money. Notice that they have been working secretly. Of course, the Daily News likes to couch it in wording such as ‘working quietly’. A classic sign of a dark sider’s strategy. ‘Behind the scenes’ is another euphamism. I, of course, would use the words sneaky, underhanded and conniving but that’s just my view from years of experiencing the work of the Dark Side. It is easy sitting at my comfortable preservationist armchair to snipe at others but boy do they deserve it!
In this case, though, I am cautiously optimistic that they will turn their dark skills to do good for Newburyport. If you ever wondered how contemporary architecture was rammed down Inn Street then look no farther than some of the members of this group that had a hand in it. When Newburyport Five decided to do their new addition, an historic structure was a thing of contempt to the designer. The hodgepodge that replaced the historic structure always seems at the time to be "state of the art" until later viewers took a look and shook their heads in disbelief. If they are correct and they want to fix the mistakes of early handiwork, I first applaud them and then I would put out a warning to the Planning Office and the Preservation Trust to keep a close eye on them. You might not necessarily want their fixes!
Here are some thoughts:
As I have well-documented, the NRA/HUD plans of the restored downtown are partially in a barn in Rowley and the rest stuffed down in the basement of City Hall (Rich Jones is hoping but I personnaly don’t have much faith his volunteers wlll find anything.). So how do they plan to fix the downtown? Well, I noticed that they enlisted the Sasaki Associates of Boston who did the design for HUD. That is very clever! Obviously, they would have design and engineering records of their great historical achievement. In fact, if the Downtown Group encouraged copies of the HUD plans be donated to the Newburyport Public Library and the DPS, they could do a great service for our City.
Two, the City Improvement Society is an old-boys organization. They turned down sponsoring the John Bromfield Brick Sidewalk Fund when its organizer, Jerry Mullins, needed a 501(c)(3) sponsor for the project. He was told they only do ‘parks’. Liers! It is obvious that infrastructure is included in their by-laws. I suppose it’s different when heavy hitters like Jack Bradshaw, Byron Matthews and Dick Sullivan come knocking at your door! Regardless of their deception, the CIS is a great and safe place to send donations to a very worthy cause.
Three, this article says a truth that I have been trumpeting for many years. This group is not just fixing the downtown and restoring it to its former glory but is dedicating itself to maintenance. Maintenance is, by the way, a dirty word in American terminology. Everyone wants the glory of building some new thing, no one wants to waste their time just maintaining what is already built. Mainly because it’s a thankless job. Plaques and memorials will announce the name of the builder; no one notices or cares when the place is kept neat and tidy and well-built. But maintenance is vital in this day of conservation and tight finances.
"If maintenance is kept up, the overall costs can be kept down.
It is significantly less expensive to maintain infrastructure than to let
it totally deteriorate and then rebuild it or lose it."
– Byron Matthews
I for one will cherish this quote. It is this reason alone that the city has to stop gutting the Department of Public Services and to add not lay off more DPW workers! The City can’t expect big dollar grants from the Feds and the Commonwealth to replace what could have been maintained and kept up. That includes schools, public buildings, sidewalks, parks, etc.
Because of that, after all my sniping, I still say, ‘Hurrah for the Downtown Group!!!’