Slowing down traffic in the Square meaningless without a plan for development

20 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The plan developed was well-thought out, and construction is underway. But something really big is still missing when it comes to the reconfiguration protect on Main Street in Peabody Square.

Right now, we should be hearing voices from the heavens, not from some Iowa cornfield, but while standing down next to Civil War monument:

 “If you build it, will they come?”

In theory, slowing down the traffic through the Main Street corridor seems like a good idea. But the question remains: What exactly are we slowing people down to see? Yet another Brazilian clothing store? The WorldChurch, which now sits in the space that was once home to Brother’s Deli? How about another barber shop?

Just slowing down the traffic will not bring life, or bring businesses people want to patronize back to the downtown area.

We need a plan, and I was reminded of this again today when I read an article in the Salem News about the Beverly City Council unanimously approving a 70% tax break for the first five years, and a 30% break for the next five years for developers who build on a dilapidated stretch of Rantoul Street near the train station.

The article made me wonder when our city was going to start looking into similar incentives to bring shops and restaurants to Peabody Square once the Main Street corridor project is finished.

If you truly want to create life again in Peabody Square, you’ll need to bring back the type of commerce that makes people want to come down there in the first place. And, contrary to what I’ve heard from some city council members, it’s NOT about bringing in a major chain restaurant. The North Shore Mall already has a Cheescake Factory and a PF Changs.

Newburyport, Portsmouth, NH, and Salem, are attractive because of their waterfronts, but they also have unique shops, trendy restaurants, and accessible, affordable parking.

It’s about bringing in bistros, and bookstores, and cafes. It’s about trendy restaurants, and ethnic restaurants, and owner-operated shops. We have a decent start on that with restaurants such as Sugar Cane, and the owner of Maki Sushi has done a nice job turning a previously horrible space into a great little restaurant. But there’s so much more to do when it comes to encouraging businesses into the Square, businesses that are going to attract people from all over the North Shore, improve quality of life, and help Peabody jump start plans to expand its commercial tax base.

Right now, there are a handful of property owners who control downtown, and in recent years they’ve done whatever they can to ensure that the building space they own is occupied. In doing so, they’ve rented on a first come, first served basis.

But what if we as a city offered those property owners tax incentives, if they rented to specified types of businesses? Instead of paying the current tax rate renting to a barber shop, what if we gave them a break for renting to a bistro or café?

There most definitely is a lot to think about, but we need a plan. We need to keep in mind that simply slowing down the cars isn’t going to accomplish anything other than making Main Street safer for pedestrians.

For sure, we all care about safety, but the Main Street corridor project must be about economic growth and revitalization too.

So, “if we build it, will they come?” Unless we come up with a plan for economic growth incentives, the answer is … “no.”

This post brought to you by “You Make the Call,” Peabody’s longest-running cable show on the issues of the day.

16 Responses to “Slowing down traffic in the Square meaningless without a plan for development”

  1. Sammy H November 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Changing to 2 lanes will do nothing but clog up traffic. I do not agree that we can lure good businesses there. Too many lower income people live there and we will never be able to fix the flooding. I think we are just wasting out time and this mayor does not know what to do.

  2. Jaded November 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    I feel bad for the remaining people trying to do business in Peabody Square. Creating gridlock is not going to increase revenues for any business in the downtown. In fact it could have the reverse effect. Why would anybody come downtown and be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. You need a draw to make people want to go there. Bob is right.
    It’s been done ass backwards. Build it and they will come. Nobody is coming downtown to another nail salon or another greasy fast food joint. Maki Sushi is one great success story. Let’s hope for many more.

  3. Anonymous November 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    The reality is that this is supply and demand. There is no demand from the citizens of Peabody for a busy downtown so it will never be successful. Our downtown is the North Shore Mall. That is where everyone goes for shopping and dining. No downtown will ever compete with it.

    Here is one thought that I would love to see if the city would bite on and that is to actually move the downtown to Centennial Park. It is close to the highway, it has a lot of businesses, it is a location that you could bring in restaurants, salons, retail stores etc and by doing so may bring the office park back to life…The best part is that you can easily get to it from most parts of the city without wanting to kill yourself in the process.

    The current downtown will never be the go to place in the city so maybe it is time to make a new part of Peabody the new location of City Hall….

  4. the Outfront Guy* November 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    here we go again…and once again we come back to the same conclusion > there is no real good plan, strategy and vision….and once again we return to a Dark City topic that has been studied, consulted, and complained about for years…and it continues to elude us.

  5. Wendy M. November 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    These posts make me extremely sad and angry. I lost a very close friend last year when they were struck and killed while trying to cross Main Street in Peabody. The new mayor Betencourt told us that this Main Street project was first and foremost an effort to protect pedestrians like my aunt from harm. He said helping to promote the area for a more vibrant business sector was important but he stressed that public safety was first priority!

    Keith or Pat or whatever your calling yourself now you sound like the worst of the Romney Republicans with your ‘let’s give tax breaks to big businesses so maybe they will grace us with their presence.’

    People were getting hit trying to cross the street on that speedway known as Main Street. The first job of government is to protect the citizens. You guys lose sight of that. Yes slowing traffic down might help grow business down there in the future its at least a start. But I took Betencourt at his word when he said his first priority was making downtown safe for people to walk around or just cross the street. That’s how you start thinking of revitalizing a downtown you make it safe to get around.

    You people are just like the Republicans with your pro business ranting. That’s why Obama won the election because people are fed up of people like you. I’m sorry for people like you.

    Safety first!

  6. Barbara November 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Amen Wendy and Amen! More right wing ranting. That Main Street is a deathtrap the way it stands now with people from Salem and Marblehead blasting through at high speeds. Now they will have to slow down. And if they don’t like it they can find another city to cut through we don’t need them. Bunch of crybabies anyway.

    Keith/Pat I’m afraid you’re way off the mark with this one. Businesses don’t need more taxpayer subsidies like big oil has been getting since Bush I and II were in. We should embrace alternative energy so we don’t have internal combustion engines and then we won’t have so many cars going through main Street. IMHO.

  7. Bob Croce November 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Thanks for the comments, ladies. It’s great to see so much interest in Eye on Peabody. It’s nice to know that we are already providing the public with an effective forum.

    But you may have missed the point I was trying to make in this post. There isn’t anyone who doesn’t want to see our streets safe, but we could have done that by adding more lights, and adding more police surveillance downtown.

    The reconfiguration is about revitalizing Peabody Square from an economic standpoint. I don’t get the “Republican” greedy comment at all. We need to expand our commercial tax base not so the city or anyone can “profit,” but so we can afford to pay our bills, improve our schools, and create an overall better quality of life for everyone.

    There is only one main way to get the money we need to improve quality of life for all of our citizens. It’s called taxes. So, your choice is simple: you can either expand your commercial tax base so the businesses give us the revenue we need, or you can raise taxes on homeowners and make Peabody less affordable.

    Which one would you choose Wendy and Barbara?

  8. Barbara November 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    If we explore alternative energy instead of just talking about it then we’ll create plenty of jobs without raising taxes. It’s called energy independence and we could all use a lesson. Becoming a Green Community would be a great first step for Peabody and so many other cities and towms in Massachusetts.

    Also don’t be so defensive Keith you’re the one who posted a link to an article about giving out tax breaks to businesses. It’s called corporate welfare and don’t you think we’ve had enough of that over the last 20 years?

    • Anonymous November 21, 2012 at 8:20 am #

      Green initiatives are marketing at best. Just like this whole plastic bag bill coming from Marblehead. Let the market decide and not a few of you bleeding liberals.

      Coporartions need incentives to come to the city. I am fed up with paying deadbeats my hard earned money while they scam the system. When Patrick struck down the enforcement component for EBT and then we witness the fraud in Lynn it goes a long way…

      • Barbara November 21, 2012 at 8:59 am #

        Why am I a bleeding liberal because I believe in saving the planet? That’s crazy. Those plastic bags do nothing but choke the planet becasue they do not decompose even after 1,000 years.

        You say corporations need incentives from the city? Who is the city? Taxpayers that’s who. You want to give your tax dollars to greedy corporations rather than to helping working people who need a hand?

        Sorry my anonymous friend but we just had that conversation during the election and the so called bleeding liberals won. TIERNEY not TISEI WARREN not BROWN and OBAMA not ROMNEY. The voters spoke for a new direction. I’m still celebrating!

    • Anonymous November 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

      Barbara, the liberals one only because the whitehouse gave away this country. The fact that you are proud that Tierney one says it all! BTW how is that a new direction, they elected the same hacks that have been there?

      BTW nothing decomposes in landfills…Do you want to know why? There is no oxygen to allow decomposing to occur. Look it up. So I guess we should only make products that we can recycle…Also, we have more landfill than we know what to do with. If you were to use cloth bags then you run the risk of ecoli so you have to wash them.. so disposal of dirty water and use of energy. Also it takes a hell of a lot more energy to create paper or these cloth bags. Most people dont throw away their paper coffee cups in recycling bins. The whole recycling and battery powered cars are a big hoax and many scientists have stated this.

  9. the Outfront Guy* November 20, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    let me answer for the ladies…they don’t want to make this choice because it is a very difficult choice and a tough tax balance to maintain…Wendy and Barbara do raise some valid points about safety and I think the intent of this thread was a focus on downtown business development….surely the issues are intertwined but why are we reinventing the wheel on this issue?…take a look at downtown Beverly…downtown Salem….downtown Reading…downtown Wakefield….downtown Melrose….downtown Georgetown for that matter….how do they do it? there are main streets or roads going thru each of those other cities/towns…they all have potential safety issues and parking challenges….but yet the downtown businesses there seem to be doing ok…..what is the secret to their success? why can’t we reach out and network with these other communities, get some ideas to apply here and figure out what might work for us here in Dark City? why is this so damn difficult?? why is this taking DECADES to figure out? do we have an economic development dept? a chamber of commerce? city planners? leadership from the Council and Mayor? if this were the private sector they would all be out of a job due to poor job performance and stagnant results…but look in the mirror Dark City…our vision and leadership has failed us on this issue……because we would be further along at this point than we are if we had any vision and resolve …and that’s how OG sees it.

    • Anonymous November 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      First step to improving down town might be promotion. Imagine a giant banner (much like one advertising international festival) across Peabody Sq. advertising Shop Local prior to the Nov. 24 event. Imagine now the folks looking to rent space for their business knowing the city was in fact supporting them. It might help if the city backed a down town partnership of sorts or at least a business’s idea to help all.

  10. West Peabody Girl November 27, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    Outfront Guy makes some great points in his last post. I have visited most of the downtown areas of the cities he mentions and think that it would be a great idea to take some ideas from their successes. He is correct in saying that they all have great shops, bistros, restaurants, and cafes to visit. Some even have art galleries and museums. All of these things would help draw people to a downtown area. I’ve even visited downtown Lowell and had dinner at a wonderful restaurant there and been amazed by its transformation. The point that everyone is missing when it comes to downtown Peabody is the fact that it is located in a flood zone! The downtown has been plagued by flooding problems for over 50 years and not much has been done to alleviate the problem. To think that a business owner would invest in an area that is literally underwater every other year is ridiculous. I also sympathize with Wendy in the loss of her beloved aunt and agree that something needs to be done to make the downtown area safer for pedestrians. However the point of this story was about downtown revitalization and until the flooding issue is resolved, it seems penny wise and pound foolish to be putting all kinds of money into re-paving the sidewalks and narrowing the road. These things should be done as part of an overall plan to rid the area of the flooding problem for good, and done AFTER not before the plan has been implemented. One big improvement I think would be to move the court house out of the downtown area and put it up at Centennial Park. It is an eyesore, and takes up the whole square. It also attracts a bad element to the downtown area. Move the courthouse and create a larger green space (similar to Leather City Common) that can be lined with push carts in the summer where vendors can sell the wares. Just a few ideas…

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