Call for Salem Poets and Writers!


Over a dozen local photographers have chosen and photographed a public space meaningful to them. What will their image inspire you to write about a place that you know or discover in your own way?

Cards will feature a public space photo and a poem/ written reflection inspired by the photo on the other. To be launched and for sale at the Salem Arts Festival, 2017. The Public Space Cards will be packaged with a map of all locations. All proceeds will go towards recovering production cost and then divided equally among participants. (Cost TBD)

Poetry/prose submission Deadline: March 11, 2017

MAX LENGTH: 100 words / 12 lines

TO PARTICIPATE: Send a writing sample to salempublicspaceproject[at] and we’ll get you started! 

Pedestrian Mall Walking Tour

Peabody Museum in 1971... surrounded by cars! (photo by John F Collins, courtesy of the John F Collins Society)

Peabody Museum in 1971… surrounded by cars! (photo by John F Collins, courtesy of the John F Collins Society)

How well do you know your Pedestrian Mall?

It’s all tied together in surprising and wonderful ways… On Sunday, January 29th, join us for a free walking tour of the Pedestrian Mall and East India Square fountain, led by The Collins Society! Come take an afternoon walk with us filled with historic photographs, facts, and the great vision behind this central pedestrian spine of our city.

Beginning at the Old Town Hall (32 Derby Square) at 2 pm, we will highlight all of Collins contributions to Salem’s downtown area. We invite all Salemites to attend!

For additional details, please visit

East India Fountain 1976, photo by John F Collins, Landscape Architect, from the John F Collins Society

East India Fountain 1976, photo by John F Collins, Landscape Architect, from the John F Collins Society

289 Derby St: Let’s Invest in a Lot


From Carnival to Parking Lot to….? What would YOU do with 289 Derby Street?

Well, the Carnival has been over for weeks, and 289 Derby Street is once more a parking lot. But, it could be a lot more. Should it be private development or public space? Public Space, of course!

The following is from my letter to Salem Councilors in support of the Carnival Lot for public use:

I am writing again in support of acquiring the 289 Derby Street lot for public use. When I first moved to Salem, I conducted informal surveys at the 2011 Farmers Market asking why people moved to Salem, since I seemed to be meeting many newcomers like me. Almost all said they love the walkability of Salem. Although anecdotes are plentiful, hard data is harder to come by to show the great economic benefit over time of good, useful, public spaces. Downtown Salem’s footprint is slowly enlarging with new development towards the Point and 1A; 289 Derby Street lot would be one of the largest such public spaces and serve as a great public amenity in what is quickly becoming the expanded center of our city.


As new places open to the South River, Carnival Street Lot would be a great amenity, and a welcome relief for future density.

The acquisition of the lot for public use would be a wise long-term investment for Salem; the ultimate cost is worth it for our investment in our public realm that could be a wonderful, democratic gathering space for all people, in view of the Point on one side, and the bustling downtown on the other, next to a currently neglected but changing waterfront. As a local architect and community artist, I am committed to an expanded and inclusive public realm that is useful, innovative, and beautiful – a worthy and worthwhile amenity to our city.

In our seemingly divided and siloed nation, public spaces offering access to public amenities, beauty, festivals, performances, art, community, and a place for conversation are increasingly important. We need more spaces where we can come together with those of different ideologies but an essential shared humanity.

Will you support the acquisition of 289 Derby Street for public use? Write your Councilors!

Read Mayor Driscoll’s OpEd here

Read from some of the Council concerns on the acquisition here

A Rare Public Space Opportunity in Salem


The Carnival Lot from across the South River – taken October 24, 2016 – in hyperactivity two weeks each year.

The Salem City Council has some important Public Space business on the Agenda for tonight’s meeting (10/25 @ 7pm): 289 Derby Street (aka The Carnival Lot) could become one of the newest and most exciting Public Spaces in town.

The Carnival Lot is named for the two weeks in October that it is used as a carnival – like right now! The otherwise empty parcel  is the most significant Public Space Opportunity for the City of Salem in years. The $1.4 million acquisition of the lot appears affordable as a bond order and an annual payment through the Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding, roughly at 12.5% of the total CPA yearly capacity.


View from Congress Street bridge shows the possibility to activate both the Harbor Walk and the South River.

As a city, we have the opportunity to create a vital public space in the center of town that connects to so many community desires that I could write a list longer than you’d care to read. Here are 7 main points:

  • The Carnival Lot is a unique space in the city that can be a gathering space at the intersection of downtown, a thriving commercial corridor, the Point neighborhood, part of the Harbor Walk, and waterside access, all within a dense urban context.
  • Unlike any other public space in Salem, the proportion of the space creates an ideal outdoor room. Up the road, Derby Square functions as our historic “living room.” The Carnival Lot is also defined by masonry buildings on two sides, but has the bustling activity of Derby Street at one pedestrian entrance, and the South River on the other to create the feel of a true urban “front porch” with unique uses, such as “Seaside Cinema” perhaps?
  • The Carnival Lot is a crucial anchor space to facilitate the realization of the South River Harbor Walk as a complete loop that connects across neighborhoods and offers a unique connection to a waterway in the middle of our city. Without this space, the walkway will lack a space for gathering that will create a place, rather than only a walk.
  • The lot offers a unique connection to the South River that symbolically (and perhaps literally!) can bridge across to one of our most dynamic and undervalued neighborhood, The Point.
  • The lot as a public space can connect for water activities on the currently underused South River.
  • The lot itself provides unique opportunities for pedestrian connections, much like the most endearing public spaces in the city from the Essex Street mall and the myriad alleys to the Ropes Mansion Garden to new trails (from rails), a unique pedestrian system of getting through the city enables the robust foot traffic that makes for active, safe, and useful spaces.
  • We have the opportunity to truly “Still Make History” by creating one of the most beautiful, exciting, and dynamic river walks in the state.

One of the most exciting aspects of acquiring The Carnival Lot is the potential for a genuine on-site, public process of what to do with it! Salem Public Space Project imagines great public gatherings exploring possibilities, experiments in the space with temporary notions, conversations about everyone’s ideas from stewardship and ecology to food-trucks and theater…. yes, we imagine and advocate an all-inclusive, all out, participatory process! That is our dream and hope for The Carnival Lot: both its process of becoming and the gathering space we create together will constitute a beautiful and forward thinking legacy of urban design and public space in Salem.


Off Derby Street, the public space can be a “front porch” for the city connecting downtown to the South River.

From Flatbread to Notch, to new businesses across the street and river, the adjacent activity makes The Carnival Lot’s emptiness even more conspicuous. The alternative of an eventual built development (like condos, let’s say) would detract from the value of the location to the surrounding businesses, as well as the public. A novel, vital public space complements and adds real value to the existing and growing density.

Write your Councilor if you support the Public Space Opportunity and / or attend the meeting at City Hall, tomorrow October 25 at 7pm.

Get moving!!

Get moving!!


Call for Participants: Salem Photographers


project description:

Salem Public Space Cards are a project to cast an artful gaze onto our shared public spaces.

The cards will feature a photo of a public space on one side taken from the unique perspective of a local photographer, and a poem inspired by the photo on the other, and packaged with a map of all locations.

They will be launched and for sale at the Salem Arts Festival 2017.

Deadline for photo submission: Nov 6, 2016

To participate, contact us!