By Dyke Hendrickson
---- — NEWBURYPORT — A new vision for the future of the east end of the municipal waterfront emerged this week when the city’s Harbor Commission announced its interest in doubling the size of the harbormaster’s office to include bathrooms, showers and perhaps some space for the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
No costs were discussed, but commission members say enhancement would not come from municipal funds. Members have received conceptual drawings from two architects and a third architect is expected to present plans in coming weeks.
Chairman Brad Duffin said the commission wants to increase amenities for the growing boating population, and also provide harbormaster Paul Hogg and his team with a better equipped headquarters.
“It’s early, and we haven’t talked to the mayor yet,” Duffin said. “But we want to offer more to boaters, both those who live in town and visitors who choose our harbor.”
Commission members had been talking about expanded facilities, but at a meeting Thursday night, they divulged for the first time that architects have developed concept drawings. The drawings were not available for publication.
Members said that a new structure would be about double the current harbormaster’s headquarters, which is about 14 feet by 26 feet. It would house safety equipment and improved communication devices as well as bathroom facilities.
There is no bathroom in the current facility. Hogg has said that he gets numerous requests from both boaters and pedestrians for the use of a restroom.
There are public facilities in the nearby Firehouse Center for the Arts and the Black Cow restaurant, among other sites, but many visitors are not aware of them, officials said.
Commission members say an expansion would include the chance to offer amenities such as bathrooms for water-borne visitors, provide better safety communication with boaters and serve as a complement to the Clipper City Rail Trail.
Duffin declined to speculate what construction might cost. Harbor Commission members have indicated that the money will come from a harbormaster enterprise fund that is supported each year by docking fees and boating registrations.
In the recent fiscal year, the harbormaster’s department generated close to $340,000 from registrations and docking permits.
About 1,450 boats were registered in the past year, one of the busiest ever.
Mayor Donna Holaday several months ago commented, “This could be a good project. Certainly we want to entice visitors and expand (amenities) that we can offer.”
She said at the time that determining a method to pay for such an undertaking would be crucial to the process.
Ann Ormond, president of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said she was unaware of a plan to include her organization in such a building.
The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority is developing plans for two structures on its 4.2 acres nearby and tentative plans call for a Chamber office in that complex.
The NRA project envisions shops, restaurants, 30 to 35 condominium units, public restrooms and offices for the Chamber. However, the NRA has not finalized any aspect of its conceptual plan.
Members of the Harbor Commission include Duffin, Bob Dow, Stephen Hines, Jaime Knapp, Paul Dahn, Paul Rooney, Andrew Casson, Justin Dutcher, Richard O’Leary and Benedetto Orlando.