For roughly three decades, Centennial Park in Peabody has been celebrated as the model of a business area, one that looks good, pays lots of taxes and minimizes bother for residents.
And that’s just the problem, according to Mayor Ted Bettencourt.
It’s a model increasingly being copied and expanded, at the Cummings Center in Beverly and Shetland Park in Salem, for example. And the competition comes at a time when the economic boom years are well behind us. The result — some vacancies and empty spaces at the Peabody original.
Today, in response, some are advocating dramatic changes at Centennial Park, even a transformation of what it has always been.
Since the North Shore Cancer Center moved to Endicott Street in Danvers in 2009, its home for 14 years at the entrance of Centennial Park has remained symbolically empty. It’s not the only empty building, although the mayor stresses that the vacancy rate is not a critical problem.
“(Centennial Park) has done relatively well,” Bettencourt said in an interview. “But it can be done better.”
Working with a committee that he’s assigned to assess the park, Bettencourt is convinced of several steps that should be taken.
“It needs to be rebranded,” he said, conceding that this could well mean giving the area a new name. With the new name might come businesses that have never been allowed before.
“I’m interested in increasing the types of uses,” he said. An allowed business needn’t be strictly industrial in nature, he explained. “There could be other kinds of commercial use.”
That might include restaurants or gyms, to give two examples.
In addition, Bettencourt worries that drivers whizzing past on Route 128 might never realize that Centennial Park exists.
“There’s an old sign set way back, covered by some trees and bushes,” he said.