Thursday afternoon, city officials welcomed Jay Ash, the state's Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, to celebrate the completion of the Peabody Square project. The project was supported by a $1.8 million Massworks Program grant that provided funding for infrastructure improvements such as new lighting, pedestrian crosswalks, and new outdoor dining space for restaurants to spur economic development and revitalize the downtown.
"Our cities and towns understand the need to invest in their main streets and downtowns to capture economic potential and Peabody is making great strides to do so," Ash said. "We are committed to working with our local partners to pursue innovative strategies to help communities attract private investment, small businesses and new residents with programs that provide technical assistance and flexible resources."
The Peabody Square traffic reconfiguration project followed an earlier project in 2014 to ease the traffic flow on Main Street. In all, nearly $6 million has been invested to make the downtown a more desirable location for residents, developers, and commuters, said Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr.
"This is one of the busiest roadways in the state, with nearly 30,000 vehicles traveling down it each day," Bettencourt said, standing near the intersection of Main, Central, Lowell, and Foster streets. "For a couple of decades, downtown Peabody has struggled with an identity as a cut through. Many people have envisioned a revitalized downtown Peabody, and I believed in the vision so much, that it is one of the primary reasons why I ran for mayor."
One of the biggest signs of renewed interest in the downtown is the development of the O'Shea building at the corner of Main and Foster streets. In the spring, Pat Todisco of Todisco properties bought the building at auction for just under $1.5 million with plans to bring a restaurant to the first floor and add more than 20 luxury apartments to the upper floors.
That restaurant will be familiar to Peabody diners, as Brodie's Pub is moving from its current location on Lowell Street to the renovated O'Shea property.
"I enjoy your burgers and look forward to having more legroom in your new restaurant," Ash told Brodie's owner Michael Votto.
State Representative Tom Walsh (D-Peabody) said the work downtown is a prime example of city and state leaders working together with the private sector.
"It can only get better from here; we're going to keep our sleeves rolled up and continue to move forward," Walsh said.