Sometimes when dealing with a large business and land owner like Karp’s New England Development, there is a tendency to look at the issues facing the area of the Waterfront West Overlay District through the eyes of an onlooker. It’s basic human nature to look after your own self-interest and forget that NED has bigger challenges than a group of concerned citizens or even of City Hall’s priorities. Right now, his group is fighting the Fed’s with their obsession on revamping the flood maps. This may be a problem for business and homeowners with existing buildings with the looming burden of flood insurance, it’s a worse problem when putting in new buildings.
But that is not the greatest obstacle for Steve Karp.
Even with all his resources, professional CPA’s, lawyers and consultants; he has been unable to convince a single hotel chain to come to Newburyport. Even he knows that NED is not in the hotel business. And yet, the entire waterfront plan is hinged on an anchor hotel and conference facility.
Everything that comes forward from this point on hinges on convincing them with a viable business plan. Profitability is the lifeblood of a business. He has to show himself and them that everyone will make a profit.
Right now, being a landlord is not so hot. Unlike others such as David Hall at the Tannery, Newburyport Development, his local arm, is charging rent PLUS a percentage of the earnings of local businesses. And the question in this feeble economy, “How’s that working out for you in profits?” Ever since the economy has taken a nose-dive, the usual suffocating parking issue in our Downtown has largely been a non-issue. Being here for a long time, it is extremely noticeable. (I love it but it’s not good for our businesses!) It’s not even good for the soon-to-be Parking Plan. It assumes the volume that we had in the ‘good ole’ days’.
So, to make his property investments pay off, he needs to proceed on the WWOD and it has to generate profit. Yes, even a big-wig like Karp has things that keep him awake at night.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not getting gooey in my empathy. It is good that we keep the pressure on him to make sure we all benefit. The appearance of his development, how it integrates into the rest of the business district and mitigating it’s impact on the rest of us; these are all important. And being a smart businessman, he will listen. It will be our fault alone if we remain silent. Watchdogs like Tom Salemi on his blog, concerned city councilors, volunteer boards and commissions and groups like Citizens for Environmental Balance and the Chapter 91 Citizens Committee. (Oh that we still had the downtown and waterfront advocacy groups!)
All these voices will help create a healthy and economically viable Newburyport. (We might even have the Chamber speak up and make a difference! Okay, I’m an optimist – what can I say?)