By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Renovation work on the Essex Street pedestrian mall has begun and is expected to go through June.
Meant to make the street more inviting and pedestrian-friendly, the project includes removing several landscaping beds, resetting cobblestones and replanting diseased trees.
Work will be focused on the area between Central Street and East India Square for the next two weeks and move toward Washington Street as the project progresses.
Part of a yearslong, ongoing project to improve the pedestrian mall, the work being done this spring was approved by several city boards in the fall.
Work on the fountain in Town House Square, at the corner of Essex and Washington streets, was originally included as part of this month’s renovations, but is out to bid and will be completed at a later date. The fountain, across Washington Street from the “Bewitched” statue, is on the site of Salem’s first water source and was immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his short story “A Rill From the Town Pump.” The fountain that’s there now was added in the 1970s as part of the downtown Salem restoration.
The pedestrian mall, which stretches 950 feet from Washington Street to the Peabody Essex Museum, is closed to traffic except for delivery vehicles.
Eight diseased trees will be removed and replaced with six new trees on the Washington Street end of the mall, from Coons gift shop to Cabot Money Management; a seventh tree will be planted in front of the Magic Parlor.
The mall’s worn, wooden kiosk will be removed, and patches of cobblestones will be reset to correct drainage problems. Landscaping beds will be removed from in front of the Museum Place Mall and replaced with brick.
The work is expected to finish by June 30.
For full details on the project, or to sign up for email updates, visit www.salem.com (updates are posted under “city news” on the right side of the page); or call Andrew Shapiro in the city’s planning department, 978-619-5685.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.