FILE PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
An aerial view of the Liberty Statue in Peabody Square in Peabody on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016.
By LEAH DEARBORN
PEABODY — A yearlong focus on the city center is beginning to pay off for downtown businesses.
Deanne Healey, president of the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce, said the biggest project of the year was the reconfiguration of Peabody Square, which wrapped up in October.
“From the feedback we’ve received, the general consensus is that people were skeptical at first, but now they’re pleasantly surprised,” said Healey.
The improvements to the downtown will continue into the new year in an effort to ensure that non-residents know exactly what the city has to offer.
Neighborhood organization Peabody Main Streets has been working with a design and wayfinding consultant to create more uniform signage, said Healey.
“We want people to see downtown Peabody as a destination and not a one-stop shop,” said Healey. “Right now the signage in town is not very good. When you get off the highway, every sign points you to Salem.”
Healey said most businesses in the center have been around for a long time and have a consistent client base. The real hurdle, she said, is getting people to linger and try new things.
It was a challenge Peabody Main Streets attempted to overcome this year with events designed to showcase the city’s livelier side, such as a pop-up dinner party at East End Veterans Memorial Park in September.
Healey said the group is already looking forward to a pop-up winter-themed bar scheduled for March 4 in the renovated center.
Julie Daigle, business liaison for the city, said Peabody plans to work with a consultant to fill store vacancies downtown.
Daigle named furniture store Manzel Inc. as an example of a business that has been thriving since a recent move from Route 1 to Foster Street.
“They’ve done a great job revitalizing the downtown,” said George Kougianos, owner of Brother’s Restaurant and Deli, that returned to Main Street this year after an absence of nearly two decades. “We just happened to have a chance to come back at the same time and we took it. We’re doing great.”
Christopher Ryder, chief of staff for Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. said his hope this New Year’s is to see a continued revitalization on Main Street, not just into 2017 but for many years to come.
Leah Dearborn can be reached at [email protected]