Amesbury, Massachusetts – Essex County

April 29, 2024

Amesbury, Massachusetts

A Thriving Community on a Journey Towards Continued Vibrancy and Innovation


Keeping its historical roots firmly intact while embracing a dynamic future

Gracing Boston’s north shore lies the friendly and welcoming community of Amesbury, Massachusetts, a small city with a rich history and a vibrant present. From its roots as a former mill, farming, and automobile town, to its current status as a hub for creativity and entrepreneurship, Amesbury is a city that is continuously evolving, inviting transformation while preserving its heritage.

“We have this very robust and vibrant city center with period architecture, really great mill buildings that have been repurposed for incubator spaces and small businesses, artists, creative entrepreneurs. We have wide brick sidewalks, and period lamp posts, and we’re a walkable community, but we’re surrounded by farmlands, which makes us unique,” describes Mayor Kassandra Gove. Open space is valued in the community, which is located on two rivers and has several lakes within its boundaries.

“We have a lot of recreational opportunities here too. We have a predominantly residential community, a great school system, and we are just a great place for people to live and raise a family,” Gove continues.


Kate Donovan Photography

Preserving History, Embracing Change

A few years ago, Amesbury embarked on a rebranding effort, which included the design of a new logo. This bright and contemporary city emblem was designed with intention, as William Donohue, Communications Director explains, “It is a nod to our history, in both our economics and the history of automobile production, factories, and fabric production, which is still evident in Amesbury today. But it is also looking towards the future of the development of Amesbury and where we can go from here.”

In addition to the logo, the city has adopted a slogan, ‘Make History Here’. “It’s sort of like an invitation. We want you to be here and be part of what we’re doing. Start a business, raise a family, whatever that might look like for you to leave your fingerprint on our community and be part of what’s happening,” Mayor Gove expands, “We have a lot of young people who want to live here and there’s a lot of activity. It’s an exciting place to be. It’s not a sleepy historical town.”

Revitalizing Downtown

As Amesbury continues its rebranding efforts, the focus is on revitalization, especially in the downtown area. Nicholas Cracknel, Director of the Office of Community Development, highlights, “This is an old mill town, with strong New England character. Amesbury has a fantastic and well-preserved environment from the late 18th to early 19th century. Our focus is on revitalizing and recapturing this entrepreneurial spirit, and the sense of energy that Amesbury had during its early industrial era.”

He highlights the city’s efforts to rejuvenate its historic structures and create a vibrant business atmosphere in the heart of the community. Centered on preserving Amesbury’s heritage while adapting to modern needs, initiatives include sidewalk and facade improvements, and attracting a diverse range of businesses.

Mayor Gove emphasizes the ongoing efforts to refresh downtown amenities and engage both existing and potential businesses. Noting that there is a strong spirit of collaboration in the business community, she mentions that Downtown Amesbury is home to four breweries, which are a popular attraction.

“We have a live music venue called The Space in one of those old mill buildings and they’re all finding a way to work together,” she maintains. “They’ve been creative. One of the events was the kickoff of the concert series at The Space. They had Tall Heights there as the opening act. They’re a big name, and they came in and then the record store got their records, and they were able to sell them at the record store. And the local brewery was there selling beer. So, you had all these businesses working together for this great event and adding to that energy of downtown.”

Amesbury is home to other new additions and unique collaborations, including a doula agency, which is partnering with a children’s clothing store and a toy store, and a cookie boutique partnering with a balloon bar. A home decor store has been set up in a large former insurance agency, anchoring the Market Square.

As for what businesses Amesbury would like to attract to the downtown, Mayor Gove acknowledges, “We would love to see something for those outdoor enthusiasts who are paddling on the lake or driving through town with the bike rack on the car, or they’ve got the dog and the family all piled in and they’re going out to the trails. We don’t have one of those independent outdoor recreation suppliers, and we’d love to see one in our downtown.”


Kate Donovan Photography

Investing in Infrastructure for Future Growth

With continued growth on the horizon, infrastructure development plays a crucial role in supporting Amesbury into the future. Utilizing federal funding, the city has recently received funding to replace a water main, part of the ongoing effort to complete subsurface work before surface work. “We are an old community and that comes with old infrastructure. We don’t want to pave a road before we do the water main below that we know needs to be done. So, we are focused on getting our ducks in a row to make sure that that happens,” says Gove.

Amesbury has been fortunate to see significant improvements in its main throughways, with two out of three already redone or renovated. “Market Street is our next big one. And we are talking about that with our Regional Planning Association,” Gove reports. “We’re approaching that with some urgency so that we can make improvements to the neighborhood for walkability, and because it is a major connection from Southern New Hampshire.”

The city is also prioritizing infrastructure needs in areas slated for new housing development, as identified by the growth potential, or the MBTA Communities Act.

“The infrastructure is critical to be able to support the type of housing that Amesbury is looking at for the next 5 to 10 years,” suggests Cracknel. “I think what’s equally important is that the code in the community, the land use regulations need to be commensurate with that infrastructure capacity.”

He says the city has streamlined its processes to encourage adaptive reuse of abandoned buildings, relaying, “We have made a concerted effort to make sure the zoning code and the land use regulations are conducive without a lot of red tape for somebody to be able to come in and make an investment to repurpose these buildings.”

Amesbury is exploring higher density housing opportunities, taking an innovative approach with local developers to create new mixed-income neighborhoods with a mix of housing types. “We’re trying to build a slightly lower density with a larger footprint,” Cracknel details. “They will have a mix of single family, multi-family rowhouses, and some larger corridor buildings with 24-32 units.”

These neighborhoods will include community buildings with a range of recreational amenities, to be enjoyed by all. The plan emphasizes connected communities, not only through the road network but with the inclusion of bike lanes, sidewalks, and trails.

On the subject of connectivity, Gove says Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MeVa), is a valued partner to the city as it continues to attract new residents and businesses. “We can’t do it on our own as a municipality. Having a regional transit authority that’s a great partner is just so important. MeVa is really on the cutting edge of things. They are setting the standard for regional transit.”

A Vision for the Future

Looking ahead, the city of Amesbury is continuing on a path of transformation, honoring the history of the community through a combination of preservation and innovation. The next steps will be guided by the launch of a new master plan, which Donohue says has been the result of three years of hard work.

He conveys, “We’re just about ready to get this launched and put out to the public. It establishes a guide for the city of where we want to see ourselves and how we’re going to get to that point.”

Cracknel says a priority is the continued work towards a lively downtown core and the implementation of strategic zoning changes.

“We are focusing our primary efforts on business development downtown, whether that’s infrastructure improvements that we’re going to be making for utilities and transportation, or recreational amenities, the code development, facade improvement, our parking program, or our outdoor dining.”

Adding her final thoughts, Mayor Gove shares, “These are really big generational changes, to amend our code and change the way that our community looks and feels. Zoning has been in place for decades and largely shapes the way that our communities have been developed. To change that is a big deal, and that’s going to be our focus is to work with the community to make sure they understand why we’re doing this and what it will unlock for us.”

With a clear roadmap and a collective vision, the future holds nothing but promise for the city of Amesbury.


WHO: Amesbury, Massachusetts

WHAT: A city experiencing growth and transformation

WHERE: Essex County, MA



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