, Salem, MA

September 23, 2013

Downtown redo comes to West Peabody

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — It’s every resident’s downtown.

That’s one of the takeaways from a meeting set for tomorrow to discuss ongoing development in the downtown. It won’t be held in the downtown, however, but in West Peabody at 6 p.m. at the West Branch Library, according to planner Blair Haney of the Community Development Department. The public is invited.

“We’re trying to engage all Peabody people,” Haney said. “For any downtown development to succeed, you need people from outside the downtown to contribute.”

At the same time, Haney made it clear that those who live and work in the downtown have been and will continue to be vital to the decisions on revitalizing the area. Also attending the meeting, for example, will be the Downtown Association, which includes the area’s business people.

Boosting the downtown is a top priority for Mayor Ted Bettencourt, who oversaw the recent reconfiguration of the traffic pattern and upgrades of the sidewalks, landscaping and lighting. That’s only part of what’s called the downtown economic development plan.

At this point, Haney noted, there’s plenty left to do with lots of changes yet to be determined. An earlier forum that drew 50 people was held at the beginning of the month at the Torigian Center.

“That showed there is significant interest in this topic,” Haney said.

Haney calls tomorrow’s meeting a “visionary session.” Under discussion are three downtown properties: 78 Main St., which currently houses the Music Box; the Pioneer House on Washington Street; and farther down the road toward Salem, the vacant lot at 166 Main St. To help residents imagine the changes that might come to these sites, software from SurveyMonkey will offer visual suggestions for the sites, everything from storefronts to signs.

City officials want the feedback. Haney said to look at the visuals “and tell us what you’d like to see. Give us lots of choices.” He said city planners will respond to what residents tell them. “We definitely are listening.”

Refreshments will be offered.

Another forum later this year will take place in South Peabody.