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Imagining a new Essex Street

Group seeks input to revitalize vacant storefronts and downtown spaces

March 24, 2021 : The Eagle-Tribune, by Allison Corneau

LAWRENCE — Two years after gas explosions and pandemic-related relief efforts took time and energy away from the city’s downtown district, Essex Street is finally getting its due, according to organizers from a new project aimed at revitalizing vacant storefronts and spaces in the area.

Jess Martinez, Lawrence’s MassDevelopment Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) fellow, has been hard at work on Imagina Essex, a new effort to spring life into the span between Union and Lawrence streets.

Using information gathered through virtual community listening sessions, surveys and other studies conducted by We Are Lawrence and others, MassDevelopment plans to zero in on Lawrence’s TDI district to make it an ideal place to work, live and play.

Salem, Mass.-based consulting firm Creative Collective is also assisting with the project

A leadership committee will soon cull through submissions made from community members as to what types of creative uses and rotating “activations” they’d like to see showcased inside already agreed upon spaces at 222 Essex St. and 238 Essex St., Martinez said. From there, the group will solicit applications from various vendors and small businesses, she added.

“We’re going to be working with EforAll — EparaTodos — and places that might be looking for a brick and mortar space as well as regional businesses that might be looking for a space in Lawrence,” Martinez said, “or even spaces in Lawrence who may not even have thought of locating downtown.”

The first reimagined space on Essex Street is expected in May.

“Success would be that people bring more attention to Essex Street and what’s happened in the last 10 years,” Martinez said. “Maybe local entrepreneurs will say ‘Hey, I never thought about downtown, maybe I’ll move down here.’”

For more information on Imagina Essex:
Visit creativecollectivema.com/imagina-essex