Well, here we go again.
Just when we all thought that we were taking steps in the right direction when it came to revitalizing Peabody’s downtown, our Community Development Department becomes an accomplice again in a familiar game where greedy developers to do whatever they want, wherever they want.
Developers will be before the city council tomorrow night seeking a special permit to shoe-horn 10 one-bedroom, 500-square foot apartments into an old office building at 98 Main Street. That’s great, just what we need downtown, more potential and transient Section 8 housing.
When will this all stop? When will the leaders in Community Development understand it’s not just about development?
It’s about responsible development.
I say this already knowing that Community Development has given its blessing to this ill-advised project. I say ill-advised not because there’s no parking, and not because I’m against residential development in the downtown.
It’s ill-advised because this is prime commercial space, where we should be encouraging mixed-use and the type of development that will make our downtown as vibrant as Salem’s. If we’re going to go the mixed-use route, with shops, restaurants, and other businesses on the first floor, and residential living spaces above, I’m all for that. But these residential living spaces need to be higher end, and be able to attract people who actually have disposable income to spend downtown.
I say all of this while recognizing the need for affordable housing. But our downtown will never become what we want it to be by putting these types of units right in the heart of what needs to become Peabody’s downtown Renaissance.
Call them apartments, if you want, but what’s being proposed here isn’t much grander than your average rooming house.
The city council doesn’t just need to ask serious questions tomorrow night. It needs to reject this plan for the good of the city’s revitalization efforts.