SALEM — More than $2 million worth of repairs and upgrades to two of three downtown Salem garages are coming to an end — and a new visitor center is gearing up to open next month — just in time for the city to start heading into its peak tourist season.
City crews are completing work at the Witch City Mall Garage, a three-story structure connected to the Witch City Mall and South Harbor Garage by Congress and Derby streets.
Both facilities are still undergoing last-minute work, including the installation and activation of security systems, according to Salem traffic and parking planner Dave Kucharsky.
At the Witch City Mall garage, “the third level opened a few weeks ago,” Kucharsky said. “We plan to open the roof and the ramp leading to the roof by the end of the month.” At South Harbor Garage, the public restrooms are now open and “both stairwells are complete and open to the public again.”
Both projects were approved by City Council in 2021, with $1.58 million targeting the Witch City Mall garage and $850,000 earmarked for the South Harbor garage. The former project also came after a series of $1.1 million works on the first floor of the Witch City Mall’s garage in 2020 and $1.3 million on the garage’s four stairwells in 2017 .
The new Destination Salem Visitor Center is scheduled to open in the South Harbor Garage base near the end of September. The move will give the city’s marketing arm a more permanent public presence, according to executive director Kate Fox.
The visitor center will operate similarly to the Destination Salem information booth at the intersection of Essex and Washington streets each fall, with one key difference, Fox said: Now volunteers will be paid part-time.
“In addition to our marketing mission, we will provide visitor information and visitor services,” Fox said. “There are so many people who live in Salem who are born ambassadors of this great city. We are looking for people who want to dedicate their time to helping visitors get the most out of their Salem experience.
Calling them “information specialists,” Fox said part-time jobs would be 20 to 25 hours a week with a greater need for weekend staff. Further details, including the hourly rate, were not immediately available.
“It’s going to be open seven days a week, year-round,” Fox said. “Eventually we will have a retail component. We’re going to build it slowly – we have to get into it first – and we’re going to make it awesome.
At the third downtown garage near Bridge Street, which is run by the MBTA, Kucharsky noted that parking typically costs $5 on weekdays and $2 on weekends each fall, but it’s surprisingly slow to fill up each fall. year.
“What we’re trying to do is improve the signage promoting the MBTA Garage,” he said. “I don’t know if people think they have to use the train to park there or don’t know where it is, but we are working on putting signage in key places in the hope that people will see it.”
The city also plans to introduce shuttle buses, as in previous years, connecting downtown Salem to three locations south of downtown: O’Keefe Center parking lot on Congress Street, Salem High School near Willson Street and the Salem Hospital parking lot near Jefferson Avenue.
“We’re also trying to see if we can get deals with businesses along Highland Avenue, given the nature of how traffic builds up,” Kucharsky said. “Shuttles come either from North Street or from Bridge Street, they are sort of congested (in traffic), whereas coming from the south seems better.
“We’re trying to focus on routes that we knew had the ability to get shuttles in and out with some ease, which makes them more attractive,” he said. “The last thing anyone wants is to sit on a bus for a while.”
Contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him on facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.