An article by the Lawrence Eagle Tribune: http://m.eagletribune.com/eagletrib/db_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=Iifis1I4&full=true#display
The commercial center of Salisbury Beach has been struggling to find a new identity and a new direction for a long time. It is encouraging to see that a new effort is underway, one that has solid local support and some serious interest from state officials.
Last week, state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki and Energy and Environmental Secretary Richard Sullivan visited the beach to hear for themselves about a plan being primarily championed by Wayne Capolupo. Capolupo has made substantial investments in his hometown beach, and like his fellow beach property owners, he sees great potential.
The idea Capolupo and others are proposing would tear down almost all of Salisbury Beach Center and replace it with more attractive, year-round housing and businesses. Ultimately, several new and architecturally cohesive five-story buildings would include 750 residential condos with ground-floor commercial/retail space. It would completely replace the hodgepodge of buildings that line the beach center’s main streets.
The state would be a player in the development. It owns the beach itself, and it is being asked to invest about $5 million to build a beachfront boardwalk, a 500-foot pier, a comfort station, and other amenities to make the area more attractive to investors.
We were glad to see that both Bialecki and Sullivan had some interest in the plan, though they noted that as Gov. Patrick’s administration enters its lame-duck stage, they won’t be around much longer to shepherd the project along.
Capolupo and other project enthusiasts are hoping that a single, well-financed developer will take on the entire project, at a cost of perhaps $150 million. The state officials asked that they attempt to find this developer in 60 days as a good faith gesture. It seems an unreasonably short time frame to line up such a well-heeled developer, but the push is on.
Taking a glance a little further up the coast, at Hampton Beach, it’s clear that public investment in public waterfronts is a sound idea. New Hampshire has spend $15 million on Hampton Beach, dramatically upscaling its public facilities and its desirability. It’s an impressive project, but we think Massachusetts can do a better job — and for less money.
A big part of the reason is simple geography.
The local seacoast is shaped somewhat like a shallow letter “C,” with Cape Ann at the southern extremity and Hampton’s Boar’s Head at the northern end. This shape offers us a uniquely long view of the coastline, and Salisbury Beach has an enviable spot — it is the only place along that 25 miles of coast with a substantial commercial zone built directly on the beach.
Anyone who has been to Capolupo’s Seaglass restaurant can plainly see this.
Seaglass, which sits out over the beach and surf, has arguably the most dramatic and extensive views of our local seacoast of any commercial building from Rockport to Hampton. Add to that scene a 500-foot pier, a more attractive and welcoming waterfront boardwalk, and Salisbury Beach immediately vaults to the head of the list for desirability.
Salisbury Beach already has the most accessible public beachfront in the region, with a public beach that is miles longer than Hampton Beach. It also has a very popular state part, far larger and more desirable than Hampton Beach’s state park. What it lacks is a vibrant, modernized and cohesive commercial center.
Our state would be making a smart investment by looking at the potential of Salisbury Beach. We’re encouraged by last week’s visit by the two state cabinet secretaries, and we hope this development concept takes off.