Washington Street in Ipswich before it was repavedCommentary

Asphalt deserts

Impermeable surfaces like asphalt pavement absorb solar radiation and re-emit radiation as heat, increasing air temperature by as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit, yet covers around 40 percent of the land in American cities. Before Washington Street was reconstructed in 2011, it had become an eyesore with huge swaths of cracked pavement and buckling sidewalks. The redesigned road is a tremendous improvement in aesthetics and safety. Visitors see a well-preserved neighborhood that compliments the historic character of our town, and the community has a safer way to walk to stores, schools and Bialek Park.

Washington Street as it appears today
Washington Street as it appears today

North Main Street and Meeting House Green

At about the same time, the massive swath of pavement on North Main Street in front of the Library and Congregational Church was reduced in size (but not enough), and the aesthetics of the intersection were significantly improved.

This garden on North Main Street is maintained by the Ipswich Garden Club in a triangle that was once covered with asphalt.

Elm Street

This closeup of the 1893 Birdseye Map of Ipswich shows that the present Police Department and parking lots on Elm St. sit on part of the Heard family’s large park-like yard which is now the Middle Green. The house at the end of Elm St. on the right side was moved to the Smithsonian Museum in 1963. The Sally Choate house on S. Main St. is also no longer standing.
Elm Street in Ipswich MA
View of Elm Street from the intersection with County Street

The Police Dept. building on Elm Street is one of a handful of early 20th Century Neoclassical brick buildings still standing in Ipswich, and it sits on an asphalt desert. Rather than demolish the building after the new Public Safety building is constructed, the Town could adaptively reuse the primary part of the building. Presently Elm Street is an eyesore of asphalt pavement. Proper landscaping would greatly improve the appearance of this century-old structure and associated parking lot. Any changes and improvements should complement the north side of the street, which is lined with historic houses.

The Ipswich Police Department was formerly the Electric Department, constructed in 1938.
The Police Dept. building on Elm St. as it appears today
Vision for Elm St. police Dept.
The author’s sketch of what the police building could look like with proper landscaping.

Suggested improvements for Elm St.

  • Keep Elm Street one way in its present direction.
  • Narrow the street by approximately 5 ft., replace the asphalt with brick paving, and install attractive greenery between the street and the building and parking lot. Narrowing urban streets slows traffic and makes them safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. An example of a similar street with narrower width is upper Summer Street.
  • Remove the attached garage structures in the rear of the Police building and replace them with plantings.
  • Extend the Ipswich Riverwalk to the Sidney Shurcliff Riverwalk by utilizing the rear of the property and parking lot.
  • Improve the hideous parking lots at Elm St. and South Main St. so they become attractive assets, providing access to the Ipswich Visitor Center and the present police department in its future capacity.
  • If housing is built in the future on Elm Street, it should complement the existing houses in size and appearance.

Categories: Commentary

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1 reply »

  1. I appreciate your looking ahead to visualize both visual and environmental improvements. Now’s the time to consider these ideas seriously. Thank you

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