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Peabody, Mass., Slated to Work On Several New Building Initiatives in 2023

Tue January 10, 2023 - Northeast Edition #3
Salem News


The city broke ground on the project last spring to update parts of the building in need of repair or upgrades. By this April, improvements to the school’s front entrance, lobby, front-facing classrooms and a new nurse’s office will be complete, allowing students to again use the school’s main entrance, said Superintendent Josh Vadala. (Rendering courtesy of Welchbuildingproject.com)
The city broke ground on the project last spring to update parts of the building in need of repair or upgrades. By this April, improvements to the school’s front entrance, lobby, front-facing classrooms and a new nurse’s office will be complete, allowing students to again use the school’s main entrance, said Superintendent Josh Vadala. (Rendering courtesy of Welchbuildingproject.com)

A new year is likely to be full of new developments for Peabody, Mass., including affordable housing projects, school safety updates and possibly a new public safety building.

The Massachusetts city lies northeast of Boston and shares a border with the town of Salem.

"Over the last couple of years, because of COVID, a lot of things have been put on hold," Mayor Ted Bettencourt said in a recent interview with the Salem News. "In 2023, a lot of projects that we've been looking forward to are going to start to happen in the city, and we're very excited about that."

New Bridge, Building, Road Coming

Bettencourt said his focus is on rebuilding Peabody's Endicott Street Bridge and revamping Central Street, along with presenting a flood mitigation plan and new public safety building.

The latter structure would be built where the current police headquarters sits on Allens Lane and include full stations for both the police and fire departments, along with an emergency management facility that could open the city up to more grant opportunities, Bettencourt noted.

He hopes to present the idea to the Peabody City Council in the next month or two, the News reported Jan. 8.

The city would still have to seek funding to hire a company to design a new facility, meaning there is not yet a price tag attached to the project, Bettencourt noted, but he is hopeful that work can get started in 2023.

"This is a project that I think is needed and will really set us up nicely in terms of public safety for decades to come," he added.

The city also will start renovating the Central Street corridor from Wilson Square down to Peabody Square, according to the Salem news outlet. The project has already received $12 million in funding from state and federal grants to resurface the road and sidewalks, upgrade crosswalks and traffic signals, and add modern landscape and design amenities to the area, Bettencourt said.

"It's going to be a transformational project for that area, making it safer, making it more accessible, improving traffic flow, and I think it's going to improve the lives of tens of thousands of our residents in the city," he explained.

Peabody has already spent about $1 million on the project's design phase, which Bettencourt called a "minimal" contribution in the overall scheme.

He expects construction to start this summer or fall and last for about a year.

In addition, a rebuild of the Endicott Street Bridge is slated to commence this spring or summer, Bettencourt said. The $1.2 million project received a $600,000 state grant last year and will take six months to complete, he noted.

Bettencourt also looks forward to a flood mitigation project beginning this year that would help reduce flooding, particularly in Peabody's Ward 3.

It would follow the recent construction of upstream retention ponds to collect stormwater that threatened to spill into Peabody Square, Bettencourt told the Salem News, adding that the city would create another of these ponds in the Lawrence Brook watershed, which stretches from Margin Street at the Salem border down to Walnut Street at the North River.

Affordable Housing Plans in Works

The City of Peabody spent much of 2022 wading through affordable housing proposals, according to its mayor. While a 45-unit development at the Mills 58 Marketplace on Pulaski Street was approved in November, there are still about four such projects before the city. They include proposed developments off U.S. Highway 1, Wallis Street and Oak Street.

Almost 11 percent of the city's housing stock is considered to be affordable, meaning those units are reserved for households with incomes at or below 80 percent of the area's median income, said Curt Bellavance, the city's community development director. That is about 191 units over the state-mandated 10 percent mark communities must meet.

But Bellavance told the News that approximately 96 units are expected to be shaved off that number this year since an affordable housing project approved for King Street failed to file building permits in a timely fashion. That also is likely to happen for a similar project on Endicott Street, which has until the end of January to file those permits, he said.

The city also received a grant through Mass Housing Partnership to work with a consultant to assess what steps Peabody should take following new multifamily zoning requirements for MBTA communities, according to Bellavance.

Welch Redesign, School Safety Efforts Under Way

Another construction project happening in the city this year is for a renovation to Welch Elementary School.

The city broke ground on the project last spring to update parts of the building in need of repair or upgrades. By this April, improvements to the school's front entrance, lobby, front-facing classrooms and a new nurse's office will be complete, allowing students to again use the school's main entrance, said Superintendent Josh Vadala.

The rehab will continue in the back of the school and its gym, and will last through the following school year, Vadala told the Salem news source. He expects the project to wrap up by the start of the 2024-2025 school year.

Additionally, West Memorial Elementary School will get a new roof this summer, and the city is planning to tear down the old Kiley Brothers Memorial School that has been empty on Johnson Street since the district moved its central offices from it several years ago. Vadala expects the demolition to take place in the coming months, noting that while there is not a plan for the site's future use right now, it is in the works.

"[The old school is] not in use, it is not really safe, so taking it down is great," he said. "By having that property, we'll be able to plan some … good use for the city and for the school district."

The Peabody Public School district also is working with a city-led task force and the state of Massachusetts to keep students safer following several incidents where children were struck by cars near schools in 2022.

The task force will determine what sidewalk or road improvements are suitable for areas near each school. A reduction in the number of sidewalks near the Brown School has already been made to funnel students to crosswalks in better monitored and safer points on roadways near the school, Vadala said.

Peaker Plants, Renewable Energy

Peabody Municipal Light Plant (PLMP) will add six new electric vehicle charging stations around the city. Two will be in the Mill Street parking lot downtown, another two will be on Railroad Avenue, and the last two will go in a lot across the street from Petrillo's Italian Kitchen on Foster Street, said PMLP General Manager Joseph Anastasi.

The plant is looking to buy a new battery that will help reduce electricity costs during peak energy use times, he explained. The battery can be charged when electricity is cheap and dispense it to customers when it is most costly, saving ratepayers money, Anastasi added.

Construction on a new 55-megawatt "peaker" power plant should wrap up this year at PMLP's Pulaski Street substation in Peabody. The $85 million facility would be powered by oil and natural gas. It is known as a peaker plant because it only runs during peak times of energy use.




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