The Baker building development project is essential to the short and long-term viability of our community much like the project was 140 years ago. A group of people wanted to settle and form a community in the geographic location where we are today. Their leadership decided the best way to assure success of the settlement was to try to get the Santa Fe Railroad to come through Peabody as they built a track west from Emporia. They knew this would economically help their new town succeed. They met with railroad officials and indicated they would name the town after one of the railroad executives, F.H. Peabody. The rest is history. The railroad came through Peabody for a number of years, helped guarantee commerce in and out of Peabody as well as providing transportation. It was the lifeblood of the community.
We are at a crossroads again, 140 years later, that will determine the future of Peabody. Small communities, especially rural ones, are dying slow economic and population deaths. Accessibility to goods, services, and jobs have changed in the past 10 to 20 years in the fact people are so mobile. Living and transportation costs have increased incrementally during the past five years. Commerce has become global rather than local. In order to stay a viable option in today’s world, we must help create options for Peabody to be a vibrant option for people in today’s society while retaining the best of small town flavor and living. We can’t leave it to chance because the odds are not in our favor. The city has a vested interest and responsibility to try to move in a positive and constructive way to give Peabody an opportunity to be here as an incorporated city, with a school system and a functioning economic environment. The alternative is one with no good options for the town. They include decreasing property value, becoming unincorporated, school consolidation, less access to goods and services in town because of lack of businesses, and decreasing population.
One of the positive actions the city has taken has been obtaining high-speed Internet service in town. Another initiative is what the city council heard Monday evening — the purchasing of buildings at 115 through 125 Walnut Street for development of apartments on the second floor and retail and business space on the first floor. The project covers some of the city’s needs including preservation of a number of buildings important to the city’s image as an 1880s Main Street, rental housing which is needed in the community, and an economic opportunity and location for new businesses on Main Street. Again, this project is a great opportunity for Peabody to avoid the fate of other small and rural communities.
I would like to thank the mayor, city council members, city administrator Mac Manning, Peabody Main Street Association members, the state Main Street Organization, Peabody Main Street Director Shane Marler, and Christy Davis of Davis Preservation for their willingness to be part of the team in this endeavor to try to make Peabody’s future a bright one. There has already been hours of time, detail preparation, and planning in getting to this point in the process. Hopefully we can make Peabody a place that new businesses and residents want to “get into” rather than a future of “got to get out of.”
In my way of thinking, just like 140 years ago, leaving Peabody’s future to chance is not an option. It wasn’t then and it can’t be now. Success is based on vision, planning, hard work, and having the right people in place at the right time. I believe that with the help of community leaders and residents, this project can be a reality. I urge everyone to get behind it and support it.
Peabody’s future depends on it.