, Salem, MA

May 21, 2013

Letter: Historic vistas need protection

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

I’ve been noticing a common thread of appropriate concern in the local area over proposed new commercial buildings. One of our neighboring towns to the south is buzzing about a big, new building downtown that is blocking ocean views from the already-faded downtown area. A developer in Salem is proposing a huge, modern office building as a “Gateway” to our historic city, dwarfing a section of the McIntire District behind it. Many residents know these projects don’t feel right, but haven’t articulated the real issue. The very important consideration that isn’t taking place in formal conversations is preservation of our historic vistas.

Preservation of historic buildings is a comfortable concept to most, although debates will inevitably occur. However, historic “landscapes” are equally important, yet not used often enough as a means to protect local historic character, history, and quality of life — to the extent that they really should. Historic vistas need to be a critical consideration in redevelopment, as inappropriate scale and placement can ruin the character of a town, which can also negatively affect the tax base. A town may not have a Revolutionary War battlefield to protect. But, a public harbor view can be equally important. Maybe a city doesn’t have the vista of a great estate to defend. But the chance to glimpse a historic neighborhood that passers-by have been admiring for hundreds of years is worth fighting for.

So, I urge all of us to start talking about protection of historic views and vistas — particularly during this boom of local redevelopment — because once they’re gone, they won’t be coming back.

Jennifer Firth