As the Daily News interviewed the principle players on the waterfront, I detected a major shift in Newburyport Development’s stategy. Sometimes it’s the little things that have huge implications!
When the large hotel was proposed for the central waterfront so many years ago, the vision was as a convention center. The reasoning in the business plan was simple. This hotel would service the tourists but the real impetus was convention traffic. Attendees would come in all types of weather, bitter cold or warm, and after the sessions; would fan out over the downtown keeping local shops and services busy. The promoters said over and over again, this was Newburyport’s ticket for prosperity.
The problem was no parking and the citizen’s desire to see an open waterfront. Well, years later, the large hotel and convention center was moved over to be built in the Waterfront West Overlay District. The citizens have their ‘park’ and the conventioneers would still end up fanning out and filling the coffers of the local businesses.
But no one actually asked an hotelier. You know, those people who actually build and run hotels. NED with all its clout can not convince a major hotel franchise to move to Newburyport. The problem is the size of our City. If a convention is held here, it would have to be small. Parking is limited and the basic services for the conventioneers would be inadequate. Unlike Portsmouth in which cars can literally turn off Route 95 and within a few blocks arrive at the Sheraton, Newburyport is difficult to handle increased traffic (Unless you turn High Street into a high-speed lane like the State wanted to do just a few years ago!). The Hotelier needs to keep those rooms filled on a consistent basis in between the conventions and the numbers are not adding up.
Hence, LaGasse has stated that he envisions several smaller hotels on the waterfront. These would be adequate for overnight visitors from the tourism side and from the marina side.
Looks like those who have been against a large hotel have won not only by their politiking but by hard reality. Or, did they instinctively know this all along?