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December 31, 2012

Year has brought many changes

The year 2012 in Gloucester and across Cape Ann can’t possibly be chronicled in a mere top 10 stories — or, as it turns out, 12, considering that three stories finished in a tie for the No. 10 spot in the annual polling of the Times staff.

The past 12 months have brought an extraordinary array of changes for the city and Cape Ann’s towns, from comings and goings in key local offices to development projects across the region.

What’s new around Gloucester since the last New Year’s Eve?

Beyond the striking presence of the giant wind turbines — which have literally altered Gloucester’s skyline overnight and is among our top 10 stories of the year — another major capital project was launched and has already opened along the city’s waterfront.

That’s the city’s new Harborwalk, a pet development project of Mayor Carolyn Kirk and one that, after a two-month delay, opened in August to raves from city visitors and business owners along its route who noted increased foot traffic even before the walk was fully opened.

The $1.5 million walkway, which runs shoreside from the edge of St. Peter’s Square to the city’s I-4, C-2 site, then loops upward to Main Street, not only provides a waterfront pedestrian tour, but also brings the city’s history and culture to life through 42 granite “story moments” that present information about the city and its people.

Cultural districts

In Essex, residents, town officials and downtown business leaders also had plenty to celebrate with the completion of the state’s Route 133 reconstruction project that, while shoring up the roadway and also the downtown seawall, had also snagged downtown traffic for three full summers priot to this year’s reopening.

To that end, much of downtown Essex was also recognized by the state through its approval designating an Essex River Cultural District. And the Essex district was, in fact, the third Cape Ann cultural district so designated by the state in the first year of the state Cultural Commission’s visitor marketing program.

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