It's Time for a
Although many people in City Hall may disagree on the pros and cons of making Essex Street a two-way street, most in the community agree that its long overdue to have a public discussion about helping downtown businesses by changing traffic flow.
In September of 2003, business leaders and city officials gathered together with Lawrence Main Street Inc. They developed a program that was to entice new businesses into the area and assist them with storefront renovations, repairs and a cleaner downtown area. They talked about the possibility of opening Essex Street to two-way traffic. They spoke about issues that, through the years, have affected businesses, organizations, economic growth, and public safety in the city.
Essex Street was turned into a one-way street from Union Street to Broadway by former Mayor Larry Lefebvre in the early 1980s. The west side of Essex Street from Broadway to Water Street is still a two-way street. But, the vast majority of buildings on that stretch of Essex Street are residential homes.
Prior to the early 1980s, Essex Street always had two-way traffic. The downtown area was bustling with successful businesses and had a bright future of economic growth, though a slow down in the economy had started to take its toll.
The original purpose of changing Essex Street to a one-way street was to make downtown Lawrence the new Mecca of commerce in the Merrimack Valley, helping to fill some of the vacant storefronts and boosting they citys economy. Thriving businesses like Cherry & Webb, KAPS, AB Sutherlands and famous restaurants like Morins and Blue Bonnett quickly fled the city, resulting in a long period of economic decline for Lawrence. Throughout the years, Essex Street has become a drag strip and home to boarded-up buildings, bars and nightclubs.
I believe it is time to have a public discussion once again about changing Essex Street to a two-way street. I am open to the pros and cons that the public might come up with as I am trying to keep an open mind on the matter.
What do you think about changing Essex Street from one-way to two-way? Do you think that it would improve our economic growth and public safety in the downtown area? I would like the residents of Lawrence, downtown businesses, civic organizations, and city official to express their opinions and engage in public dialogue.
A few things that we need to think about when considering such an important issue:
1. Request that the city attorney explore the legalities of changing Essex Street and what provisions exist to prevent such a change. Also, what financial penalties might incur.
2. Collect data, gather information from the public, and find out all the pros and cons of changing Essex St.
3. The big issue will be funding because capital funding is used to create infrastructures. We may need to seek grants or pass a capital improvement bond to fund such a change. The estimated cost could be more than $3 million.
The one thing we should NOT do is get bogged down with how Essex Street will look or whether we should have parking meters. We must first focus on IF and HOW we can make Essex St. a two-way and then, once that is established, other details can be discussed and debated.
There are so many issues that we will have to address in the meantime. Where is the city parking lot revenue going? Into what accounts and where is the money being spent? Parking revenue can certainly play a large part in paying for changes made to Essex St.
Grisel Silva is the District "B" City Councilor and was just innaugurated on January 3rd. You can email Councilor Silva email@example.com
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