The Witch City also has a storied history, Zaido points out, drawing people to see witches, 19th century architecture, the Friendship and the Custom House.
“But Peabody has an interesting history, too,” says Zaido, “if they start looking at it and utilizing it.” The buildings of the downtown, many dating from the Victorian era, including City Hall and the Peabody Institute Library, offer the kind of architectural beauty seldom equaled in the decades since.
But Zaido cautions, “It’s a difficult thing to crack. ... It takes a lot of things coming together.” The downtown’s reputation for flooding remains a major obstacle, she says. And that sentiment finds an echo in Coldwell Banker Realtor Zoe Karademos.
Asked to talk about Peabody, Karademos says, “The biggest thing I’ve found — it floods out. There’s definitely that issue there.”
Most of the young married couples she brings to Peabody want to buy homes away from the downtown. “The market isn’t very strong downtown,” she says.
Meanwhile, single professionals often opt for another feature exclusive to Salem and Beverly: “They’re working in Boston and they buy in Salem where they can walk and use the commuter rail.”
Karademos applauds Peabody’s efforts, however. The downtown had begun to look rundown and needs to be more vibrant, she says. If the transformation could happen in Salem and Beverly, she adds, “I can only think they can do it in Peabody, too.”
Acknowledging the obstacles, including the fact that Peabody has no ocean, Liacos says, “You’ve got to try. I don’t think we can ever compete with the Northshore Mall. ... But there are a number of things we can do.”
He jokes, “I’ll start a rumor: Nordstrom is moving to downtown Peabody.”