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.


  1. Newburyport, MA is just a short distance from Salem, NH but vastly different in urban form. Settled in 1635 or so it has built clipper ships, and George Washinton, Jefferson, both Adams, and the Marquis DeLafayette really did sleep here. Our local food network social network -"LFN" -is into encouraging more locally grown foods in community and backyard gardens, farm preservation and support and also lifting up local fishermen, food processors, etc. Tag line 'connecting farmers, foodies, and fun'

  2. Yes, as it happens I spent the day in Newburyport today. Very walkable center -- which was flooded with people for the holiday weekend. Shows you what an appealing streetscape can do for local merchants.