SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 2, 2014

Peabody mayor proposes parking garage

By Alan Burke
Staff Writer

---- — If you’re going to have a hotel at the corner of Foster and Main streets — and that project is well underway — you’re going to need a place for the guests to park.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt is in the process of addressing the problem with a proposal to erect a parking garage in the downtown.

“It’s something we’re thinking about seriously,” he said.

The city has already taken a preliminary step in purchasing an MBTA-owned parking lot on Mill Street, across from the downtown post office. A garage could go there, said the mayor.

Another potential site is the city lot in Peabody Square, at the corner of Foster and Main streets, across the street from the proposed hotel development.

“I do recognize the need for additional parking to assist with the proposed hotel,” Bettencourt said.

The boutique hotel would provide rooms and conference spaces above a restaurant in the O’Shea building. The hotel project was recently announced by the city and the building’s new owner, Bandar Development and Builders.

A garage would do more than aid the hotel, the mayor said. It would also help draw more businesses into the downtown, which is part of Bettencourt’s ongoing initiative to revitalize the entire area.

“If we’re going to complete what the mayor has started in revitalizing the downtown, we’re going to need more parking,” said real estate agent Arthur Gordon, one of the downtown’s biggest landowners. “A parking garage is certainly going to be a good thing.”

City Councilor Anne Manning-Martin also supports the idea.

“I think it is something the city needs,” she said. “... People have talked about it for years as something we need. It will help bring some life into the downtown.”

Officials in Peabody have looked longingly at the successful effort to bring some bustle back to neighboring Salem’s downtown. Flood concerns have been one barrier to working the same magic in Peabody, but a lack of parking is also cited frequently. Salem has two public parking garages.

Bettencourt said the city is looking for grants that might help finance such a project. He didn’t rule out some kind of private involvement in the construction of a garage.

“A public/private partnership can work,” he said. The state government might also help fund it, he added.

“We have to find out what kind of money is available,” Bettencourt said. “Peabody needs to look at this as an option.”

Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.