SALEM — Although the work is taking place at the harbor's edge and largely out of public view, the Salem Pier is starting to take shape.
Construction crews have been building a long seawall at the Blaney Street landing, which runs from the edge of the ferry dock back toward Derby Street and along an inner harbor. This is one of the early and key pieces of the Salem Pier, which the city hopes to have completed in a few years.
The seawall is also part of the first phase of this $20 million waterfront project, a phase the city hopes to have completed in about seven weeks.
In this early phase, a contractor is running underground utility cables and erecting an interim terminal building that will be used by the Salem Ferry, replacing the current trailer. The building will have an indoor bathroom — a first at the ferry landing — along with a waiting room and possibly an outdoor area with awnings.
Some local merchants have expressed interest in setting up stands to sell merchandise to tourists, an official said.
The dirt parking lot the city has used for the past few years is being excavated and will be replaced by a paved lot with about 140 parking spaces.
Work has been moving along rapidly because the contractor is facing a deadline.
"This will be done, hopefully, by Memorial Day," Mayor Kim Driscoll said.
The Salem Ferry is scheduled to begin its season May 27, which is the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The high-speed catamaran runs between Salem and Boston from Memorial Day through Halloween.
In the late fall, after the ferry season ends, contractors will start building the first section of the T-shaped, 350-foot pier. Work on that phase is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2012.
Last Thursday, the Seaport Advisory Council approved more than $600,000 for the Salem project.
The city still needs to secure about $10 million in state and federal funds to complete this waterfront pier.