Traffic study to look at shopping plaza's impact

File photoThe company that owns and operates the North Shore Crossing plaza on Brimbal Avenue plans to do a traffic study this fall. 

BEVERLY — Nearly two years after the opening of the North Shore Crossing shopping plaza on Brimbal Avenue, the developer will conduct a study to assess its impact on traffic in the area.

North Shore Crossing opened in the fall of 2019 after years of planning and public meetings. It currently has 11 stores, anchored by a Whole Foods Market.

Some residents and city officials vehemently opposed the plaza at the time, saying it would bring too much traffic to the area. But Ward 5 City Councilor Kathleen Feldman said she has not received any complaints directly related to the plaza since it opened. Instead, she said residents are more concerned about development on nearby Dunham Road.

"I haven't heard anything really about the specific plaza," Feldman said. "The focus has completely shifted to Dunham Ridge and the introduction of more development back there."

As part of the city's approval process, CEA Group, the company that developed and owns the plaza, was required to do traffic studies six months and one year after the plaza opened. But those studies were postponed due to the pandemic.

A lawyer for CEA Group told the city's Parking and Traffic Commission on Tuesday that the traffic study will be done in the fall.

"We'll look to do this in the September time frame when school is back and we're anticipating that the impact from the COVID pandemic will have largely dissipated," attorney Tom Alexander said.

Rich Benevento, the chairman of the Beverly Parking and Traffic Commission, said the study will compare current traffic numbers to those that were anticipated in the initial studies when the plaza was being proposed. A 2014 study predicted that the plaza would generate 4,500 new vehicle trips on weekdays and 6,400 on Saturdays.

"The whole purpose of doing this is, we need to substantiate that, yes, the traffic is working fine," Benevento said during Tuesday's meeting. "It was so controversial at the time."

Feldman said in an interview that she is not surprised that traffic is better than some anticipated because people can access the plaza directly from Route 128. She said there is more concern among neighbors with development on Dunham Road because that is the only road to the Dunham Ridge office park.

In addition to the growth at Dunham Ridge, a recreational marijuana shop has been proposed for 60 Dunham Road. There is also a proposal to turn the Vittori-Rocci Post on Brimbal Avenue into a Landry & Arcari rug store.

Feldman said the best solution to alleviate traffic problems in the area lies in the the long-proposed Phase 2 Brimbal Avenue project, which would involve building a bridge over Route 128 to connect Brimbal Avenue and Dunham Road.

"The focus has switched 100% to the stars aligning for a Phase 2 coming to fruition, because that's what is needed," Feldman said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly. 

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