More housing downtown doesn’t equal a sensible plan for revitalization

1 Aug

Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you saw the local Beverly-based “newspaper” with Salem at the front of its name this morning, you might have thought that Peabody Square is now a trendy place to live,just like South Beach in Miami, or in one of those million dollar lofts above some shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

SquareThere is was, a huge spread, complete with room-by-room photos of new postage-stamp-sized apartments at 11 Main Street. But there are granite countertops, so who am I to talk?

There are also panoramic views of Peabody Square out the windows , where you can watch the sunset over lovely beauty shops, liquor stores, and vacant store fronts. I’m sure this will cause young professionals to flock in a frenzy to rent these new digs.

First off, congrats to developer Norman Lee for talking the local bugle into a huge kiss-ass spread on what are essentially 11 small apartments that might be occupied by middle to lower-middle class residents who are looking for affordable housing. Then again, as someone who previously worked for small, struggling newspapers, my guess here is that this article  was one of those “bought-and-paid-for” services. The newspaper in question, after all, is on death’s door, so why not disguise paid content as real news once in a while?

But I digress.

The reason for my rant this morning is that, what you see at 11 Main Street is right now Peabody’s idea of how we should re-vitalize the downtown. Let’s jump at every chance to allow willing developers to turn old, dilapidated spaces into small one-bedroom apartments. Yeah, right, that’ll bring people with money to spend into the downtown.

We’ve seen this before with those ugly apartments on Walnut Street, and seen other greedy, slip-shot developers come and go before the city council requesting special permits to build “lavish” apartments. As a way to re-develop downtown, this strategy has failed miserably while adding to the city’s stock of Section 8 housing.

I’m not saying that  Lee is “slipshod” or “greedy.” After all, he’s a businessman, and he saw an opportunity. These teeny-tiny apartments look kind of nice from the kiss-ass photos I saw, but why would “young professionals” want to live in Peabody Square right now?

I come back to this again and again in this space, but the beat goes on when it comes to Peabody not having an overall strategy to turn things around downtown. Someone in community development needs to FINALLY understand that turning prime locations in the downtown into lower income housing is NOT the way you create economic development that will have a positive impact on our tax base and our community.

We continue to have what amounts to ill-advised patch-work tactics rather than an actual, sustainable, actionable community development plan. We have a passionate mayor who I feel truly wants to get things rolling downtown in an effort to create more revenue for the city, and take some of the burden off residential payers. But then we also have a community development department that totally lacks vision.

So, we all watch as our taxes rise, and we continue to approve unsightly billboards as a way to create much-needed revenue for infrastructural  improvements, a much-needed new middle school, and to pay for a regional vocational school that is part grandiose educational facility, part scam to feed the state’s hack-o-rama.

So, congrats to Mr. Lee on his wondrous new apartments, which I hear have a trendy new address: 17 Peabody Square. After all, it’s not his fault that this is what passes in Peabody for sensible city planning.

11 Responses to “More housing downtown doesn’t equal a sensible plan for revitalization”

  1. anonymous August 1, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    On the plus side, I hear Peabody Square didn’t flood during the monsoon earlier this week. That is a good sign for development. There was plenty of flooding everywhere else.

  2. Just Thinking August 1, 2014 at 11:47 am #


    The story within the story is that these developers are using taxpayers monies by way of CDA (Community Development) funds. To quote the Snooze: “He just received a secondary financing loan from the CDA for up to $1.8 million.” The proposed hotel got CDA funding, $500,000, I believe.
    We, the Peabody taxpayers, are really paying for the profiteering developers. Does anyone remember the name of the city financed restaurant that went bankrupt on Rte. 1. The Snooze did a big story on that positive development on Rte. 1. It is now the headquarters for the trash hauler for the city. Unlike Saugus, it seems as though all we can put up on Rte.1 is fast food and TRASH!
    If downtown developments were so economically viable shouldn’t the developers be able to get private financing? The city also funded the Christian school on Pine St. which took that property off the tax rolls.

    The administration is spending Peabody taxpayers’ monies for private gain.

    • racroce August 1, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

      You are absolutely right. And it also plays into my point. I have no problem with CDA funding help for private businesses, provided those private businesses are a key piece in the overall plan to re-develop downtown or other parts of the city. More lower rent housing is NOT key to helping us create more sustainable forms of economic development, and does nothing to improve quality of life for residents.

      • Anonymous August 2, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

        How is $1100 per month for a 1 bdrm “lower rent housing”?

    • Anonymous August 1, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      what restaurant was that??

  3. Sea biscuit says..... August 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    270 square feet for an apartment. It sound like a horse stall to me. I wonder what kind of
    animals will be living there.

  4. Curious George says..... August 3, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    Where is the this great new hotel that’s supposed to be built? Looks like another great revitalization plan by community development. Where are the people staying at the hotel supposed to park?

  5. Peabody Insider August 4, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    Rumor has it the at the community development department is trying to cut a deal with the
    new hotel owner to buy the brodies building and the one next to it on Lowell Street. . Also involved is taking the city parking lot for the hotel. It looks like Mr. Lee is involved again because he’s got an offer in to buy the brodies property. Is he going to turn around and sell it to the hotel developer for a nice profit? Meanwhile the city is giving Mr. Lee the loan to buy the property. There is a lot of behind the scenes deal making by community development. Did the mayor give them all this power to make these deals or is he behind it all? When these people ( hotel developer and Mr. Lee) take city money to finance their projects, it shouldn’t be done in secrecy. Does anyone on the city council know about this and do they have a say who the city sells property to? Let’s see how this all plays out.

    • Anonymous August 5, 2014 at 9:29 am #

      Hey George, there’s always plenty empty spots in that city parking lot. parking is not the problem, it’s the lack of people shopping

      • Just Thinking August 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm #


        Sorry to burst your bubble but half those parking spots are reserved (stickered)for city hacks and downtown businesses. But who would shop downtown anyway. Traffic is a b*&*h. Bring in the illegals with their EBT cards! They can have those new small apartments on Section 8! They won’t need parking. They don’t work. Wallgreen’s will make a fortune!

  6. Peabody Pea-brain August 15, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

    What a bunch of cold-hearted bstrds you all are! Even people fresh out of rehab need a place to live, too!

    Look, I like downtown Peabody as much as anyone but just for passing through. I look at all the old, poorly performing business fronts and ask aloud, “Wow, that’s still there?!!” You want to revitalize a downtown, you don’t do it by jamming living spaces for more people who need more services like more water and sewage and more parking…. you get a mix of attractive businesses down there. I’m not a Starbucks fan, but I’d say getting one down there would increase business 5%…

    In business, the term is “sticky”… what makes people who WANT to come then WANT to stay? or WANT to come back? The people in the new apartments are just going to jump in their cars and go to Starbucks in downtown Salem… but at least they’ll get their cigarettes in Peabody before they go.

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