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City Seeks 'Aggressive' Timeline for Pedestrian Mall Upgrade

Project could be completed before July.

Plans to redesign the portion of the pedestrian mall which extends from Town House Square to are moving forward with a possible completion date sometime before July.

The Salem Redevelopment Authority unanimously voted to push the plans through to the Design Review Board Wednesday following a presentation by Tim Love of Utile, the design company that developed a strategic approach for the Essex Street Pilot Project, and members of the public.

City Planner Lynn Duncan said the city has not been successful in acquiring three grants for the project thus far, but there are still three other grant applications pending through the .

Duncan said the design created by Love and Utile is "totally unrelated" to the issue of how vehicular traffic should be managed on the mall.

Love, who participated in , said focuses of the design included creating clearer views and a straighter, unobstructed zone for pedestrian travel.

"It's all about making a series of sidelines and making it very clear you're walking in a certain direction [so] you're not going around planter zones and weaving back and forth," he said.

The installation of safer and more maintenance friendly walking surfaces as well as creation of more open space for activity/dining option areas were also goals of the design, according to Love.

To accomplish those goals, he suggested the following:

  • Removal of "low planters," which currently work "as barriers"
  • Removal of the "underutilized" fountain/the original town pump in Town House Square/replacement with a less obtrusive historical marker of the pump
  • Resetting or replacement of uneven paving (potentially the replacement of cobblestones with another surface and/or reduction in the area covered by cobblestones)
  • Removal of ornamental trees
  • Installation of canopy trees that create a designated line
  • Removal of the kiosk behind the fountain

By and large, many members of the public and Rinus Oosthoek of the said they were in support of the plan to redesign the mall to better utilize the space.

There were some areas of concern and suggestions, especially in reference to the town pump and the potential surface of the mall.

The Pedestrian Mall Surface

Resident David Hart said he would be happy with the "replacement of cobblestone with some smooth stone," expressing concern with the fact that concrete pavers fall apart and there are ruts in the cobblestones from traffic.

Resident Annie Harris said while she is a "great fan of cobblestones," she was on a scooter for three months and they were a challenge to traverse. During certain times, including Halloween, "I really got stuck," she said. "You can't use a scooter or wheelchair on cobblestones."

George Atkins of the Salem Partnership said he was a city councilor in the 70s, and people were complaining about the cobblestones then.

"We need to make it more pedestrian friendly for older people like myself," he said.

Betty Bouchard of the said "I'd love to see some of the cobblestones stay. In articles in travel magazines (about Salem) almost all mention the cobblestoned streets."

Ward 5 Council Josh Turiel said he'd like to see "certainly not all but some of the cobblestones preserved." He also said he would like them to be better maintained, adding that he likes the "visual" that they bring to the site.


In terms of the fountain, Harris said she believes some kind of water feature would be appropriate even if were "much more modest" than what's there now.

Turiel said "it's currently just a nuisance and a target for detergent disposal," adding that something more in line with the fountain at the might be a more suitable option.

Jamie Metsch of said the fountain is used as an ash tray, a swim spot and it's often turned off because people throw bubbles in it. He said he is in favor of some kind of water feature, perhaps one without pooling.

Several other people said they would like to see some kind of water element or commemoration of the town pump, including resident Dave Williams, who said he supported the fountain because of its historical importance.

Atkins said he was "in favor of removing the fountain. We do have a significant water feature, it's called Salem Harbor," he said, adding that focus should be put on making that a point of interest.


Joan Brennan of clapped when speaking, saying she was glad the pedestrian mall was staying, but said she had one reservation.

"I'm very concerned about the timeline," Brennan said, explaining that businesses lost some time last October as a result of the storm that came in. "We have to make up for all that lost time," she said. Brennan asked that the project be completed without interfering with July, August or October.

Duncan said that had been taken into consideration and said if the plan is pushed through, it would be done with the intention of a completion date prior to July.

"It is very aggressive," Duncan said of the timeline.

Cheryl Michaels April 12, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Regarding the Fountain. I hope that Hawthorne's "Rill from the Town Pump" will be part of that memorial.
Erin Cyr April 12, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Well, I don't want to be too negative, but the Bridge Street project is supposed to be long over and done with. Take a drive down my sidestreet and let me know what you think, I hope you have a SUV or a deathwish for your alignment. If they can do it by July that would be amazing!
CarleaSkunkrawk April 12, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Don't get rid of the trees!
Don Nadeau April 12, 2012 at 02:18 PM
If the timeline is "very aggressive", what is a good estimate of the percent chance it will run into July or even August and further disrupt businesses? Do they have any recourse in that eventuality? Cobblestones, trees and other plantings, and the historical monuments including the fountains are essential features. Properly arranged, they make the site. Trees should not obscure site lines, ground plantings should not obstruct any foot traffic, the Shinto-esque fountain sculpture should be replicated with or without water, also the map sculpture of Salem, and the Fountain Place sculpture and especially its artwork and waterfall must be preserved, preferably without a pool. And don't forget to highlight and interpret the historic millstone!
Don Nadeau April 12, 2012 at 02:23 PM
The cobbles can be limited to long, narrow segments of two "tire track" lanes, so they still act as vehicle traffic calming measures but only take up a small percentage of the width of the mall, allowing foot or small-wheel traffic in several wide lanes - including one between them - while still providing visual appeal the length of each block.
Rebecca DeVries April 12, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Totally agree with you Erin! I've lived on Bridge St for 4 years and we've been "under construction" this entire time. It's awful and really should be taken care of before any 'beautification project'. Time to give back to tax paying residents!
BJ Larson April 12, 2012 at 03:14 PM
The best thing they could do for downtown would be to get rid of that awful Mall. Horrible place. I wouldn't want to lost Salem Cinema, but might be worth it to get rid of urine smells and creeps hanging around... doesn't match the rest of Essex Street at all.....
Emily Wyshak April 12, 2012 at 04:16 PM
So true! I drive Bridge street everyday and my car feels like it is going to fall apart...and it's new!!!
CarleaSkunkrawk April 12, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I'd have to agree. Keep Cinema Salem, but get rid of the rest of that mall. It's just a do nothing dive.
CarleaSkunkrawk April 12, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I've been living in Salem for about 6 years now, and I really can't remember what Bridge Street looked like before they started their "mini big dig" as I call it.
chester suchecki April 12, 2012 at 06:43 PM
if the city would sell all those cobble stones and brick i'm sure the city would get a good bite on the cost of paving and putting thr concrete sidewalks back so that eveybody including the disabled and senior citizens could comfortably shop downtown. then maybe by chance a few more store will stay more than a year and not go belly up. accessability is the key to a thriving downtown not some cutsie crap some out of town consultant sold the mayor like the wind generator on winter island.
chester suchecki April 12, 2012 at 06:46 PM
oh did i forget a street full of 4 hour parking meters for the city of greed
Rebecca DeVries April 12, 2012 at 07:52 PM
The last time I attempted to do something in that mall I took my 3-year old daughter into the public bathroom and there was vomit in the sink. I have yet to go back! Gross.
Rebecca DeVries April 12, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I assume the new parking meters are to accommodate the new judicial building, which is ridiculous for residents. It is now much more difficult to get in and out of Salem on weekdays and the traffic getting into Salem from 128 is horrendous, even causing southbound traffic to back up. These big projects need to be better thought out in the future as we really don't have the infastructure to handle this type of traffic - and off tourism season no less!
chester suchecki April 12, 2012 at 08:22 PM
just wait until tourist season ramps up. i hope you have ac in your car.
michael beaulieu April 12, 2012 at 10:41 PM
chester suchecki April 14, 2012 at 01:43 PM
oh you kill me. we have been living with this so called novelty for forty years. in that time every anchor store in salem has diapeared. snow removal is a nightmare. cleaning is a nightmare. policing is a nightmare. everything closes at dark. there isnt a soul to be seen downtown except drunks. is this what you call a vibrant downtown.id rather live in manhatten if so. ditch this stupid mall and make a bold move back to the future of salem and let the autos drive down essex st. let the mayoy put in her precious parking meters. let the banks do buisiness on essex st again. oh how i wish i could shop in salem for christmas and not go to that big m box. i would love to bring grand kids to see santa in salem not at the m box. what do you say salem? the cutsey monstrosity or just plain old common sense.
Nancy Gilberg April 14, 2012 at 02:51 PM
I think most of the proposed changes sound fantastic, and people are resistant to change. The walking surface is a tripping hazard even for able bodied people; the large fountain is an eyesore and a waste of a huge chunk of space in a prime location. I do hope some of the character of the cobblestones can be preserved somehow (leaving the majority of the walking surface easier to navigate). And Jamie Metsch's suggestion to replace the small fountain with a water feature "without pooling" is spot on.
J. Burns April 14, 2012 at 09:44 PM
I couldn't agree more. Just did a brief survey at the mall and the people I spoke with, residents and visitors alike, are shocked that the city would even think of turning the pedestrian mall over to traffic. A formal survey of visitors and residents on the subject is in the works.
J. Burns April 14, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Melas, it was to you that I replied: Couldn't agree more...Somehow my post was misplaced and appeared after Chester Suchecki's comment with which I strongly disagree.
J. Burns April 15, 2012 at 08:12 PM
How about performances like this in the big Fountain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKN1T3K1idg


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