PEABODY — The transformation of Main Street has begun, and downtown Peabody merchants seem convinced of two things — the disruption is both terrible and entirely necessary.
“This month, business has been horrible,” said Teresa Capela of Teresa’s Crafters Boutique. “... I’m hoping it will get better. That’s why I’m still here.”
“It’s going to help downtown Peabody,” said Roseanne DeFilippo, who has operated Roseanne Hair Salon for 23 years. “And we need it. We need it to look nice just like Danvers Square.”
The project began at the end of August, and the process of digging up the sidewalks started Sept. 4. Currently, sidewalks are gone on one side of the road. All that remains is dirt and sand for an area stretching from just outside the square up to and beyond the Peabody Institute Library.
At the same time, heavy equipment is breaking up sections of the road. Commuters were braced for the worst as the wide four lanes are narrowed to two.
The aim, Mayor Ted Bettencourt said, is to get drivers to slow down, to create a less hectic atmosphere and more parking, and perhaps entice customers to stop and pop into the stores. While the work is ongoing, drivers, including the hundreds who pass through daily on their way to Salem and Marblehead, have been waved into makeshift lanes.
“I did get some phone calls early on from some drivers,” Bettencourt said. “Mainly people from Salem. But I haven’t recently. But there will be rough days.”
The Main Street renovation is slated to provide decorative streetlamps, greenery, brick sidewalks and “bump-outs” intended to extend the sidewalks into the road and make crossing the street less hazardous. All that is only the first step in a three-step program, the mayor said.
The next project will be flood mitigation in the square, followed by a redesign of the square that will include moving the Civil War Memorial to a site in front of the courthouse.