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Jan. 09--NEWBURYPORT -- City officials are reviewing plans for the 117-room Hotel Newburyport mixed-use development along Newburyport Turnpike and the Clipper City Rail Trail.

The project is proposed by Plum Island LLC, owned by Newbury resident David Cowie, and would occupy the former Enpro Services site at the corner of Route 1 and Cary Avenue. The land abuts the rail trail near Low Street.

City Planning Director Andy Port said in an email that the plans were dropped off at City Hall on Monday and officials will hold their first meeting today to discuss technical concerns with Cowie and his attorney, Lisa Mead.

Cowie could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Port said the meeting is not public because it will involve members of his staff and the developer, not a city board or committee.

As laid out in the plans by architectural firm Winter Holben of Kittery, Maine, the project includes an estimated 117 hotel rooms and a swimming pool with a 30,400-square-foot footprint, a 150-seat restaurant and function space covering 12,500 square feet, and two "retail/residential" buildings with a spa.

The buildings would occupy 53,500 square feet of the 271,100-square-foot lot, according to the plans. The plans also call for 84,800 square feet of parking with 265 spaces.

Preliminary design illustrations show public access points to the rail trail, a public park and public access to the hotel's 3,200-square-foot roof deck. The hotel and mixed-use buildings would be connected by a pedestrian bridge.

One of Newburyport's biggest projects in recent years has been New England Development's Waterfront West, a proposal to construct condominiums, retail space and a hotel on the city's waterfront between Michael's Harborside and the former Black Cow restaurant.

When asked if Hotel Newburyport would interfere with the city's hopes to have Waterfront West include a hotel, Port said he could not speak for all city officials and outlined some of the additional benefits of having a hotel on the waterfront as well as along the rail trail.

Port said he is "not opposed" to having more than one hotel built in Newburyport.

"A hotel which is truly 'downtown' can help to support local businesses with year-round customers/visitors in a way that other locations can't," Port said in the email.

"While folks could walk the Rail Trail to Michael's Harborside and then walk towards Market Square, I doubt any of them will be lugging bags with them. Use of the Rail Trail would more likely be for recreational purposes. In my opinion, all factors considered, Waterfront West is the best location for a 'downtown hotel.'"

Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newbury?port City Hall. He can be reached via email at jshea@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.

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