September 4, 2009

Salem, NH mulls 'village center' for traffic-choked intersection

Salem officials are considering a plan to transform an area of typical suburban sprawl into a more pedestrian friendly, mixed-use environment.

A town committee has been tasked with redeveloping the Rte. 28/Main Street, which currently -- at least according to the satellite photo I saw on Google Map :-) -- has your typical U.S. post-War development pattern of buildings set back from the street and large parking lots fronting the road, a recipe for unappealing walking.

The redevelopment committee's goals "include mixed-use development — including retail, business office, and residential development — two- to four-story buildings, shared parking areas, shared driveways and access points, and design guidelines. All of these elements would go toward creating a "village center character" in the area of the intersection, [consultant Martin] Kennedy told the Planning Board," according to the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune.

Car-focused suburban sprawl is a mid-20th century philosophy that's increasingly out of vogue, as people look to recapture a sense of community and enjoy a more unique sense of place. There's a reason why it generally costs more to rent space per square foot in a desirable walkable neighborhood like Beacon Hill or Concord Center than an upscale exurb.