Megan Riccardi Answers Our Questions
Zoning, Tremont Street Traffic, North River Waterfront Development
Question 1 – North Street is one of the main entrance corridors in the city. The zoning doesn’t allow for new businesses except in places where there are already existing businesses. Is North Salem best served by this zoning?
North Street is not just a main entrance corridor to the city, but the main stretch for Businesses in North Salem. I do not believe that we need to increase the size of the current B2 zone along North Street, but we need to ensure that the locations that are currently businesses stay businesses. The recently revised B2 zoning could hurt this with minimum lot size requirements and other required variances that are now needed to improve existing properties.
More importantly, a clear vision for what types of businesses we want to support as a neighborhood is needed. Do we want North Street to continue to be a road that is owned by the cars traveling in and out of Salem, or do we want to have a street that has services for the residents to enjoy? A coffee shop, restaurant or other storefronts that would encourage residents to walk and shop North Street will help support the existing businesses that are currently on there while enhancing the liveability of the neighborhood and build community – two main goals of mine.
Question 2 – The intersection at Tremont Street, School Street, and Grove Street, handles a tremendous traffic load especially during morning and evening rush hours. What are your thoughts on how to best address this issue?
My first introduction to Salem was a class in traffic. Actually, it was a “Travel & Tourism” class at Salem State, but it was held at 9 am on a Wednesday, and as a commuter from North Andover, it taught me that traffic on North Street would guarantee that I was late for class the first few weeks. Now, 20+ years later, the traffic is still here (and everywhere else too). But it also is being pushed around by Navigation Apps, such as Waze, which can divert drivers to the other, smaller, entrance roads such as Buffum, Tremont, School and Grove.
I would address the traffic issues in North Salem by working with the neighbors and connecting them with the Traffic and Parking Commission. Through there, they can submit for projects through the Neighborhood Traffic and Parking Calming Program, which has the goal “.. to implement small-scale, inexpensive projects to calm traffic on local, residential streets by using semi-permanent materials to test ideas that can become hardened and permanent if successful.”.
Connecting the two parties that know the issue the best — direct residents and the experts on the Traffic Commission — would result in some actionable, data-driven solutions to help make our streets safer for residents.
Question 3 – Development along the North River Canal has been a long-term and ongoing project. The river/canal itself is neglected. How can Salem best take advantage of this under appreciated waterfront and address the flooding issues that affect not only Salem, but also downtown Peabody?
The Neighborhood Master Plan for the North River Canal Corridor (NRCC) tackles the challenge of an industrial, residential, and commercial neighborhood, which borders a river and train line, by connecting it with both the diverse neighborhoods nearby and the vibrant downtown. Now that development along the North River is in full swing, we need to ensure that our new neighbors are welcomed, and we work in the additional vision plans for the corridor that goes beyond just new buildings.
Improving sidewalks, creating more walking paths to improve pedestrian safety and strengthening Leslie’s Retreat park as a neighborhood park with a connection to Mason Street are all NRCC key points that should be progressed. Traffic and parking will need to be closely monitored and adjusted as needed.
The flooding of Bridge and Commercial Streets is very concerning and symptoms of the larger climate crisis. Specific to those streets, we need to ensure that infrastructure, including the gates that allow the river to flow under North Street to the other side, are in good working order and improve if needed.
Salem must continue to be a leader in the Climate Crisis and the change that is needed now. I have been attending the Salem SERC meetings (Salem’s Energy and Resilience Committee) this past year to learn more about what initiatives are in play and what more can be done. The Solarize Mass Program that Salem was recently chosen to participate in, is an exciting opportunity for homeowners. I hope with new programs, and a decrease in overall costs, alternative energy solutions will become available to more. An accessible, shared transportation system is also critical to both the environment and the housing crisis. Less gas-driven cars on the streets are needed, but people still need to get around and our current transportation options only help if you work along the commuter rail line or the MBTA bus lines. Getting to and from the supermarket, the hospital, and neighboring towns should be easier by methods other than a car.