Infrastructure improvements alone won’t make them stop, says Liacos. He believes the downtown will need one more important element for success — “a big draw.” It could be the restaurant that everybody just has to go to, “ike a Legal Seafoods,” he says. Or it could be a large, high-end store.
Downtown Peabody has a few good restaurants now, says Liacos. “But Salem and Peabody have tons of good restaurants.” He laments the loss of Brothers in the 1990s. The eatery, which moved out as a result of a dispute with the landlord, now hosts crowds in Danvers Square as New Brothers Restaurant. Liacos comments that they still know his name when he stops there to eat.
Liacos hopes to see the revamped downtown attracting young adults, singles, living in the spaces above thriving shops and restaurants.
But it won’t be easy to make that happen.
Patricia Zaido of the Salem Partnership has seen her city blossom in the past decade. And while she wishes the best for Peabody, she can also cite some crucial differences between the two locations. For example, there is nothing comparable to the internationally known Peabody Essex Museum in the Leather City.
“Culture is a key to success,” she says. “A major catalyst for development is the art scene. Beverly has Montserrat College and Salem has the Peabody Essex. ... You want something that is alive with all kinds of art, music and theater.”
Zaido, who has a background in the arts, admits she might be prejudiced on this subject, but then she can rattle off an extraordinary number of theaters in Salem, including spaces for movies and live performers. “And Beverly has the Cabot Street Cinema,” she says. “They have the best movies. Really high end. And then you can walk across the street where you can go to a good restaurant.”