SALEM - Former city councilwoman Elizabeth Thatcher went to bat Tuesday night for a downtown revitalization plan spearheaded by building owners Scott and Lisa Cahill.
She asked city leaders to implement it and the community to support it.
"It is my sincere hope that the leaders of Salem will do just that: lead us. Join the Cahills in helping restore, rejuvenate and save the downtown area of Salem. Let's not sit back and wait any longer," she said.
In addressing city council, Thatcher read from a statement she wrote regarding the Cahills and their plan, which was actually put together through the work of several committees they formed with others from the community under the umbrella of the Downtown Salem Technical Advisory Committee.
The plan was presented to council in February, suggesting several actions related to buildings, parking, traffic, funding, Internet access and business development for downtown.
In her talk, Thatcher talked about how past Salem business owners sacrificed to establish their businesses and help them prosper and make Salem a place where businesses and people wanted to come. She noted the city's many assets, from the Salem Community Center, many museums and "architecturally-impressive" buildings and homes to the expanding hospital, school system and the many organizations, including the Salem Alumni Association and the Salem Community Foundation.
She said the downtown needs revitalization and the Cahill plan needs followed. She suggested that downtown building owners might consider offering new businesses rent-free space for a year, with the businesses responsible for utilities.
She applauded the recent work Hunt Engineering did on its parking lots on Pershing Street and East State Street and the project by the Salem school board and the Salem Preservation Society at Reilly Stadium on the wall and ticket booth.
She said that maybe community members would donate money for the improvement of the downtown, with the money placed in a separate fund that could be used for building renovations. She said if every citizen donated $50 or $100 annually, "just think of the remarkable work that could be done."
Later in the meeting, after Thatcher had left, Councilman Dave Nestic gave an update on the planning process city council was going through to formulate a five-year plan they can use as a guide for spending and action.
He said it's the next step in looking at the work of the Cahills and past plans through the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. Looking at the TAC plan is one of the keys of the planning process.
"We have to take what they've done and assimilate it...this isn't just another planning process. It's the next step," Nestic said.
Anyone interested in being involved can email Nestic at www.salemward1.com.
Both he and Councilman Rick Drummond added their appreciation of the improvements Hunt Engineering made on the parking lots, with Drummond also noting work done by the Cahills on a building on East State Street. As for the planning, he echoed what Nestic had already said, that citizens need to be involved.