SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 27, 2012

Board to vote on changes to pedestrian mall

SALEM — The next phase of improvements to the Essex Street pedestrian mall, including refurbishing the corridor’s fountain, may get the green light tonight.

The Salem Redevelopment Authority will vote on a redesign proposal that the board first saw in October. Since then, the city’s Design Review Board has looked at the designs and recommends their approval.

Plans include replacing some of the street’s cobblestones, removing and replacing eight unhealthy trees, and refurbishing the fountain at the Washington Street end of the mall.

The Salem Redevelopment Authority will meet tonight at 6 in the third-floor conference room at 120 Washington St.

The first phase of mall improvements, which included work on cobblestones and removal of landscaping beds, was completed in August and September.

If approved, the second phase of work could begin in early spring 2013. The first and second phases of the redesign are funded from the city budget, said Lynn Duncan, director of Salem’s Planning and Community Development Department.

Tonight, the Redevelopment Authority will vote on replacing eight trees at the Washington Street end of the mall, as well as continued work on the street’s cobblestones.

While some locals argued to keep the cobblestones for their historic charm, others said they were hard to navigate because they had shifted and become uneven over time, Duncan said.

Two of the cobblestone areas that are in the worst shape — in front of Bernard’s Jewelers and Rockafellas restaurant — would be replaced with brick.

Tonight’s vote could also OK a slate of improvements to the fountain at the intersection of Essex and Washington streets, the site of Salem’s first water source. The spot, across Washington Street from the “Bewitched” statue, was immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his short story “A Rill From the Town Pump.”

The work proposed for the fountain would make it functional again, Duncan said. It is rarely used because of maintenance problems, including being filled with soap bubbles by pranksters.

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