This is very cool, and I've excerpted it directly from Mayor Kimberley Driscoll's FYI Salem.
The American Planning Association (APA) announced that Downtown Salem has been designated one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2008 through APA's Great Places in America program. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and communities of lasting value. APA singled out Downtown Salem for its historical character; redevelopment as a compact neighborhood with residential, retail, and commercial uses; and for helping boost Salem’s local economy.
To celebrate, the City hosted a neighborhood block party celebration for downtown residents, work-ers and visitors to attend on Wednesday, October 8th at Noon at Derby Square in front of Old Town Hall. Mayor Kimberley Driscoll along with U.S. Senator John Kerry, U.S. Representative John Tierney, State Representative John Keenan, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Daniel O’Connell, and other City Officials were on hand to participate as we celebrated this very special announcement in down-town Salem!
The City of Salem is extremely excited and honored by this designation. Over the last few years, the downtown has been transformed with a lively mix of retail and residential uses, beautiful architecture, a rich and intriguing history and a pedestrian friendly environment. These attributes have come together to make Salem’s downtown an active and vibrant place for residents and visitors to live, work and shop. This award is a wonderful recognition of all that Salem has to offer.
APA’s designation would not have been possible without the involvement of Salem’s strong leaders – past and present. Beginning in the 1970s when urban renewal threatened demolition of historic downtown architecture, local leaders shifted redevelopment policies to address preservation concerns. By 1996, the city had updated its master plan, refocusing its mission on improving the business climate, capitalizing on maritime and cultural heritage, and redeveloping vacant building sites and the neglected waterfront. Today three separate plans address specific neighborhood goals to make the downtown business district a premier retail destination; transform vacant waterfront land into a neighborhood park; and construct a wharf and harbor walk.
Salem’s downtown neighborhood is roughly a half-mile square and orbits around the Salem Common, the cobbled Essex Street pedestrian mall, and a cross-hatch of commercial streets lined with two-to-six story buildings, generous sidewalks, and trees. Juxtaposed against these period buildings, is the contemporary addition to the Peabody Essex Museum -- the nation’s oldest continuously operating museum. The ad-joining residential streets contain mostly freestanding, single-family homes with close-by churches and pocket green spaces. The neighbor-hood boasts dozens of retail stores, more than 50 restaurants, and 400 newly built residences.
The nine other APA 2008 Great Neighborhoods are: Echo Park, Los Angeles, CA; Greater Park Hill, Denver, CO; North End, Boise, ID; Old Town Wichita, Wichita, KS; Charles Village, Baltimore, MD; Greater University Hill, Syracuse, NY; Village of Mariemont, Mariemont, OH; Society Hill, Philadelphia, PA; and Downtown Sheridan, Sheridan, WY.