Any time you mention downtown Peabody there are sure to be many different opinions about its future.
First, it is important to keep in mind, that there are actually three separate projects: the Main Street realignment, which covers Main Street to the Salem line, the flood mitigation project, which runs from Foster to Central Street, and lastly the possible redesign of Peabody Square.
Kudos to the Community Development Department for foreseeing that the anticipated flood mitigation project, which will require the square to be torn up, does not necessarily need to be returned to the existing layout. Rather, they are seizing the opportunity and providing due diligence through public meetings for the general public and business community to make improvements - for both motorists and pedestrians.
One of the primary catalysts behind both the Main Street and Square projects is in fact the safety of pedestrians. In addition, as with all new road construction, all projects must be ADA-compliant, of which the downtown is not in many areas, ultimately making areas more handicap-accessible than they are today.
The reduction in the timed street light cycles has everything to do with motorists and nothing to do with pedestrians. Once the “walk’’ button is pressed, the regular traffic cycle will be interrupted to allow ample time for pedestrians to safely traverse the street.
There has been also much ado about the “bike’’ lane. Do any of us really think people are going to start biking to work, just because a stripe has been added to the street? However, what few people realize is that in order to qualify for state funding of such projects, cities and towns are required to include them in their design, if they even hope to receive grant money to offset the cost. The benefit of having the bike lane though does provide more room for cars to parallel park and safely open their doors without having to navigate the stream of traffic.
If anyone thinks for one minute the city has not been listening to the concerns of residents and businesses, they are mistaken. Counts of pedestrians, motorists, available parking, all at different times of day have been studied endlessly.
What they have done is tried to find common ground and strike a balance wherever possible between pedestrians and motorists, residents and business. The data collected support their direction and ensure that projects meet with the reality of regulations that must be adhered to at a state/federal level.
Downtown Peabody is not a thriving destination today - but it can be! There are many great restaurants, stores, and services downtown that deserve to be supported by the local community. Most of these businesses understand the construction will be tough on them and their customers.
There will undoubtedly be some ‘bumps’ along the way that can and will be addressed, but we are optimistic that the city is taking a step in the right direction.
President & CEO
Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce