Bridging History

Ipswich MBTA Community

Resources & views from community members

Options & opinions

There will be a wide range of options and viewpoints about MBTA Community planning. As these emerge in the coming months, they will be included here.

Geographical options

This incomplete list shows various possibilities. Inclusion does not mean that the idea is necessarily a good one. It is just a question of looking at different possibilities. It seems fair to say that the different options shown here have different pros and cons. There are other options that simply are not yet explored.

Central Business district

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The Central Business (CB) zoning district is the core downtown area. It is identified by the Community Development Plan as a focus for multifamily housing development.

The area is well established and largely built out. The lots are small and often of peculiar shapes. For these reasons and others, there has actually been little new housing construction there for two decades.

General Business district

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The General Business (GB) district is transitional in character and geography between town center and the in-town residential areas. It includes some large structures, such as the building now occupied by Ipswich Ale. It also includes a few areas that were, at least at the time the distict lines were drawn, locations of small family businesses near the owners' homes.

The GB disrict has been the site of a number of multifamily developments in recent decades. There are no large vacant parcels. There are a very few lots that are now developed only at low density. One of these is the site of a proposed project that would qualify under the MBTA criteria.

Industrial district (south)

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The south portion of Industrial (I) district, between Topsfield road and the commuter rail tracks, is an intriguing one for this study. Zoning currently does not allow any housing there, and there are some incompatabilities with a few of the commercial businesses there.

Yet the location is close to downtown, there is quite a bit of undeveloped and under-developed land, and the area is largely surrounded by dense residential developments.

There is also some land along Topsfield Road that possibly is underutilized. Its inclusion in an MBTA zone could be controversial.

Cable Gardens area

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The area leading out of downtown along County Road, down to about Essex Road, has been a focus of much multifamily development, especially of affordable and senior housing. Projects have included Agawam Village, Powder House Village, the Whittier Motel, and Cable Gardens. It is also the area of the proposed Essex Pastures development.

High Street

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High Street west of Lord's Square has been the site of much multifamily building over the last two decades. Zoning currently permits moderate density there.

There is some potentially buildable and underbuilt land there. Much of the region is wetland, however, making development generally less than straightforward.

Views from the moderator

I am generally working to make this website impartial, but sometimes I do have my own views. I will express some of them here, as personal opinions. This is rather like the traditional newspaper division between news content and editorial page content.

I recognize that some Ipswich residents feel passionately that the Town needs more housing, and that others feel just as passionately that it is falling victim to galloping overdevelopment.

Still others feel that we already have figured out how to deal with things, and that it is just a matter of staying on the course we've already agreed.

But: I don't know anybody who feels that we have too much housing, or too little controversy about development.

As the saying goes, it is madness to keep on doing the same thing and expect something different to happen. – But that may mean change, which may be the most threatening thing of all to the established order.

We have to change. There will clearly be some overlap between our accepted strategies and the new external requirements, especially in the center of Town. I believe that there will also be opportunities to think about long-term growth areas outside of downtown. That's where there is land to build on, that's where builders have been going, and that's what we should think about.

Paul Nordberg
November 27, 2022


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