Proposed improvements include cleaning up the structure, including its plaque with excerpts of Hawthorne’s story; installing lighting; and removing the basin, where water would pool, and replacing it with a smaller basin and “splash zone” with a concrete frame, Duncan said.
The basin area and steps also would get new brickwork.
Removing the fountain altogether was discussed, and later scrapped, during numerous public meetings held on improvements to the Essex Street mall.
Tonight’s discussion and vote is on the next phase of an ongoing project to make the pedestrian mall more inviting, aesthetically pleasing and accessible, Duncan said.
Removing planters, leveling cobblestones and other improvements are meant to make the corridor more usable, she said.
“(We’re) making it a more exciting space ... less cluttered,” Duncan said. “Creating vitality in this core of downtown.”
The mall, which stretches 950 feet from Washington Street to the Peabody Essex Museum, is closed to vehicle traffic, except for delivery trucks.
A controversial subject — opening the mall to traffic — has been discussed at public meetings but has not been formally proposed.
Duncan said they’re not ruling out anything. “Right now, what we’re focused on is the redesign, (and) making the space better. ... We’re not doing anything to open it to cars now, but we’re not precluding that as a decision in the future.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.