TOPSFIELD — Thousands of vehicles travel along Route 97 between Interstate 95 and Route 1 each day.
Most of them are on their way somewhere else.
Officials in Topsfield would like to change that.
The town also draws a quarter of a million visitors to the annual Topsfield Fair.
“How can we leverage that?” asked Town Administrator Kevin Harutunian.
“We have a beautiful downtown,” Harutunian said, “with a number of very successful businesses.”
The town has been working on a downtown revitalization plan for the past several years and is about to begin working on a new master plan for the entire community.
While the town features many of the staples of a typical New England “Main Street,” like cafes, banks, small businesses and a post office, things tend to get quiet in the evenings.
Community surveys suggest that residents of the town also want options for evenings, such as restaurants or a gallery, where they could gather, Harutunian said.
“We want to enhance what we are,” he said.
The town recently received a $100,000 grant for “wayfinding” signs on Route 1 that officials hope will pique the curiosity of some of the thousands of visitors each fall and maybe inspire them to explore.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy will be among those taking part in a business showcase hosted by the town at The Commons 1854.
“We’re super excited for it,” Harutunian said.
The event, Harutunian said, will also feature a panel of local business owners, investors and real estate professionals who will discuss opportunities for development in the town, which is located in the geographic center of Essex County. There will also be a tour of the downtown.
Harutunian said there are several properties he’d like to highlight as potential sites for a new business or a second location for an existing business. “Those are people we’d love to partner with,” he said.
The town’s former highway garage, for example, might make a good location for a brew pub or taproom-style restaurant. The town is putting out a request for proposals this summer to see what potential developers might have in mind.
At the same time, the town doesn’t want to lose it’s quintessential New England small-town charm, he stressed.
“Topsfield is absolutely unique,” he said.
Potential business owners who want to take part in Tuesday’s event can contact Harutunian at the town offices at 978-887-1500.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis