SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 17, 2014

Benton: Planning key to Salem's success

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Veteran Salem City Planner Lynn Duncan has been honored as planner of the year by the state chapter of the American Planning Association. She also joined others from the city in accepting the APA-MA’s Social Advocacy and Public Engagement Award for its Vision & Action Plan for the Point Neighborhood.

Salem’s singular success in revitalizing its historic downtown has been due in no small part to Duncan’s efforts over the past decade. Fittingly, part of that work — the new, mixed-use development on the former St. Joseph Church site in the Point — will be on display at an open house next Sunday (Jan. 26, noon to 2 p.m., 135 Lafayette St.) that will serve as the city’s official inaugural celebration for those elected to office in November.

According to Mayor Kim Driscoll, who begins her third term, the event “affords us an opportunity to showcase a signature project that is helping to define our city. (The project provides) 51 units of workforce housing, beautiful retail space and a community room right at the doorstep of the Point neighborhood. This development is just one piece of a larger initiative to catalyze positive change for the Point, bringing new jobs, housing, economic opportunity, and open space to one of our most vibrant and densely populated neighborhoods.”

Not included, unfortunately, is a new senior center, which was nixed at that location by the old City Council.

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Unlike those in many other communities, downtown Salem’s pedestrian mall has proven more than a passing fancy.

In a recent article on how some Mississippi communities are using famous foods to lure tourists — Greenville calls itself the “Hot Tamale Capital of the World,” and Corinth has an annual “Slugburger (don’t ask) Festival” — New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin offered an observation on such malls: “I would guess that any number of cities have tried celebrating a local food specialty as a tonic for a lagging downtown, just after it became obvious that doing some prettying up on a block or two that’s been closed to traffic — what I’ve always thought of as the hanging-basket approach to downtown revitalization — didn’t work.”

Not that it needs it, but Salem has some famous foods of its own worth considering. There’s Hobbs’ popcorn for instance, and that other Willows treat, the chop-suey sandwich.

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Gov. Chris Christie’s travails have garnered as many headlines here in the desert as they have on the East Coast. The New Jersey governor made a bold bid to end the “Bridgegate” saga and salvage his presidential ambitions in his state of the state speech Tuesday, in which he acknowledged “mistakes were made” and promised this “breach of trust” would not be repeated.

Unfortunately for him, from now on whenever voters are stuck in traffic on the Tobin, George Washington or other major river crossings, they are likely to wonder whether it’s simply because some politician felt snubbed by another.

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You may recall how two years ago this spring a group of Ron Paul fans succeeded in beating a group of GOP stalwarts, including gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, for election as delegates to that year’s Republican National Convention. Well, one of the ringleaders of the Paul insurgency — 19-year-old Evan Kenney of Wakefield — has turned up as the new interim chief of staff for Amesbury Mayor Ken Gray.

The Daily News of Newburyport reports that the appointment has upset some supporters of former Mayor Thatcher Kezer, whom Gray defeated by a mere two votes in November. Though these races are nonpartisan, Gray’s win was one of the few reasons for celebration in the GOP camp last fall.