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Pop-up space forges community in Peabody

CultureHouse hosted a pop-up space on Main Street in Peabody, where it held an open mic night.Julie O'Neill/CultureHouse

A temporary pop-up community space in Peabody helped attract more people to the city’s downtown area and served as a hub for businesses, entrepreneurs, and artists, according to a new report from an area nonprofit.

Now organizers with the Somerville-based CultureHouse want to share the report with local officials, residents, and businesses, as well as additional suggestions for increasing economic vitality in the downtown main street area, the group said.

Aaron Greiner, the director of CultureHouse, said the group wants to continue the momentum of the project, which opened June 1 and ran for 33 days during the summer.


The organization has opened up other pop-up spaces in places like Boston City Hall Plaza, public libraries in Boston and Somerville, and at the former Out of Town News kiosk in Cambridge’s Harvard Square, according to the group.

“Over the five short weeks we were open to the public [in Peabody], we observed how the space was used, opened minds to new ways of using storefronts to foster community engagement, and gained valuable insight into potential opportunities to revitalize downtown main streets in Peabody,” Greiner said in a statement.

CultureHouse hopes to meet with community members — including the Peabody Main Streets group — about the report in September.

“They hope that the impact report will inspire local leaders to take meaningful steps to establish a healthy, vibrant, and lively city through relevant and engaging community services,” CultureHouse said in the statement.

According to the group’s report, the pop-up project in Peabody was launched in order to help support downtown initiatives with a public space to allow people to gather, participate in the arts, and encourage people to spend more time in the area.

The data collected in the report also includes details on the specific designs of the space, programming options, alternate uses, and visitor demographics, according to CultureHouse. The report also provides statistics to support the uses of the space and impacts on residents, the organization said.


The CultureHouse Peabody pop-up converted about 1,000 square feet of retail space at 86 Main St. into a “public living room,” according to the report released by CultureHouse.

The project was funded with about $10,000 raised from 89 supporters, the report said, plus funding from Mass Development, Eastern Bank, Mass Cultural Council, the Sarah G. McCarthy Family Foundation, and the Barr Foundation, the report said.

During the course of the project, the Main Street pop-up space received 440 visitors, most of whom stayed for an hour or more, according to CultureHouse. It also hosted 46 events, 35 in conjunction with local residents. It also provided gallery space, art workshops, and activities such as yoga, live music, and other entertainment, the report said.

The space included room for a welcome area to allow visitors to relax in lounge chairs, plus a performing arts space, and room reserved for people to work on their own projects.

There were also pop-up shops that showcased local artists and small businesses.

“These collaborations supported local artists and businesses, established new partnerships, and boosted visitor traffic to the pop-up as our partners shared and promoted our events to wider audiences,” the report said.

The Main Street space also offered a gathering space for local teens to hang out and participate in organized activities. CultureHouse said that conversations with Peabody residents identified the need for a space for teens in the city.


The project was designed to offer a safe public space during the pandemic, and took on several initiatives to support the city’s population in fighting the pandemic, the report said.

That work included posting signs and fact sheets in multiple languages to help educate people about vaccines in collaboration with the North Shore Safe Summer Campaign, according to the report.

CultureHouse hopes its findings will build on Peabody’s current successes, Greiner said, but he hopes other communities will look to them as well. “There are also insights in this report that could help other towns in Massachusetts and beyond become livelier and more vibrant,” Greiner said.

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.