The city of Peabody is partnering with a program at Salem State University to update the city’s Master Plan project for the first time in over a decade and in a more cost-effective manner.
The purpose of the city’s Master Plan is to provide an organized outline for economic development within Peabody, according to the most recent plan which was finalized in September 2002. The plan includes guidelines for housing, transportation, natural and recreational resources and municipal facilities and services.
Peabody will work with Salem State's Center for Economic Development and Sustainability (CEDS) to update the Master Plan.
The main concern, according to Mayor Edward Bettencourt, is revamping the downtown area.
"For decades Peabody Square and that area has not had an identity and gradually it has deteriorated and has been struggling," Bettencourt said. "I wanted to present a master plan with ways to revitalize our downtown."
In previous years Master Plan consultants – mainly from Boston – have cost taxpayers up to $100,000 dollars, but this time Mayor Edward Bettencourt has requested the city council appropriate $30,000 for the contract with the CEDS.
"I feel that downtown has a lot of potential," Bettencourt added. "We do have problems, flooding being the main one, but we haven’t had a sustained vision for the area and I think that’s something we need and that’s the reason why I wanted to move forward with this Master Plan."
The newly created research center provides resources and data on the economic development and sustainability of the North Shore and has worked with Salem, Lynn, Ipswich and most recently, Essex.
In order to improve Peabody’s Master Plan, the center will hold focus groups, round table discussions and work with different businesses, organizations and residents to see how they define the community, said Lorri Krebs, executive director of the CEDS and a Salem State professor in the geography department.
“The main goal is economic development,” Krebs said. “To see where they can grow economically, as well as social and cultural issues, cases in different neighborhoods and what they need for support mechanisms that aren’t in place.”
The center is in the beginning stages of its work, establishing a strategy to move forward. Krebs said she’s hoping to wrap up the project in August and present the final Master Plan at Peabody’s first city council meeting of the season in the fall.