Thursday, January 16, 2014

Public meeting scheduled re new harbormaster and visiting boater facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                               
January 16, 2014
Contacts:       Geordie Vining, Senior Project Manager, (978) 465-4400
                        Paul Hogg, Harbormaster, (978) 360-6963

public meeting scheduled with design team for Newburyport’s new harbormaster and visiting boater facility

Newburyport – The City of Newburyport has scheduled a public meeting to initiate the design of the anticipated new Harbormaster and Visiting Boater Facility that will be built at the eastern end of the central waterfront.  The meeting will be on Thursday, January 30th at 7:00 p.m. in the Newburyport City Hall auditorium.

The City of Newburyport has recently contracted with Olson Lewis + Architects and Keery Design to provide design services for this project, and this first public meeting is intended to provide a forum for interested citizens to ask questions, provide input, and discuss various aspects of the project with the designers and City staff.  No decisions have been made at this early stage on the footprint, size, amenities, materials, exact siting, etc. of this small new structure.

The existing Harbormaster’s office receives approximately 5000 visitors per year, and the current 450 square foot single-story structure is simply not sufficient to meet this demand.  There are about 1500 boats registered in Newburyport alone, and thousands of visiting or “transient” boaters.  In addition, there are thousands of other people who need information or services using the Peter J. Matthews Boardwalk at the central waterfront as well as Custom House Way from the downtown.  Their numbers will likely increase once Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail and Harborwalk is built next to the fish pier.  The current facility has very limited office and administrative space for the Harbormaster and staff, and no space available for staff lockers or storage space for tools, safety equipment, and other supplies.  There is very limited customer service space for visitors.  While the City has added shorepower and water services in the past decade to the floats along the central waterfront, the existing Harbormaster’s building has no space for transient boater facilities such as toilets, showers, laundry and ice machines that would further enhance the attractiveness of Newburyport’s harbor and downtown for visitors. 

            The City through its Harbormaster and Harbor Commission has determined that a new and improved facility should be built on the fish pier at the end of the central waterfront.  It is important that the facility continue to be directly visible and accessible from the floats serving visiting boaters at the central waterfront, as well as located in close proximity to the Harbormaster’s own floats and vessels.  The exact siting of the building on the fish pier will require balancing the desire to avoid negative impacts on: a) the fishermen’s memorial area, b) views from the Custom House, c) parking and vehicular circulation on the fish pier, d) the working area for the commercial fishermen on the pier, and e) the anticipated extension of the Rail Trail and Harborwalk.

The new facility under consideration could be up to 2000 square feet, and allow for a customer service area on the ground level with room for 2-3 staff.  In addition, the City is considering lockers for staff to change and store clothing, storage space for daily equipment, and a second story office area that would allow for small meetings and facilitate the Harbormaster’s monitoring of river traffic and communication with boaters.  The new facility should also include a small number of basic facilities for visiting boaters including information, toilets, showers, and ice, and potentially laundry, vending machines, wi-fi, etc., to further improve Newburyport’s harbor as a destination.  Preliminary estimates put the new facility at approximately $600,000 to $800,000 which will be financed by existing boater revenues from the Harbormaster Enterprise account.  The City hopes to complete design and permitting by the fall of 2014.


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