SALEM — It may seem that Mayor Kim Driscoll has eyes only for "land-side" developments like the $106 million state courthouse and the proposed MBTA garage, but of late she has been casting longing glances at the deep blue sea.
Two weeks ago, the mayor and other city officials flew to Seattle to meet with representatives from Holland America Line, a major cruise company that stops at New England ports.
Recently, she created a new part-time position — port development manager — in the hope of generating more business and revenue for the city's waterfront.
This week, the Planning Department is going over final details on a $1.3 million state contract to improve the Blaney Street landing, site of the city's temporary ferry dock. Work is scheduled to begin soon and be completed by Memorial Day, the start of the 2011 ferry season.
Late in the fall, thanks to a $2.5 million federal grant, construction will begin on a 260-foot section of a new concrete and steel pier at Blaney Street, signaling the start of the long-awaited Salem Wharf.
In addition, the city has received state funds to do the engineering and permitting work to dredge the South River basin, the shallow waterway that runs along a new harborwalk between the Congress Street bridge and Lafayette Street.
The waterfront, for anyone not paying attention, is making waves.
It is no coincidence that this flurry of activity follows Salem's acquisition of the Blaney Street Landing from Dominion, the owner of the adjacent power plant.
It is time, the mayor said, to start "looking backward a little bit" to the days of Salem's maritime past, when the city made its living off the water.
"We now recognize we don't have great highway access, but we have a great waterfront," she said. "And if we can find a way to connect our economic development needs with our harbor, we ought to do it."