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Marblehead 20|20 helps historic town look ahead

Lined by such historic structures as the Jeremiah Lee Mansion and Abbot Hall, the streets of Marblehead have been trodden and ridden over by many equally important and historic people, from French statesman the Marquis de Lafayette to Olympic cyclist Tyler Hamilton.

As the buildings and streets of Marblehead are so steeped in history, its people have taken it upon themselves to preserve their town and to prepare it for an even brighter future. The result of this effort is the Marblehead 20|20 Foundation (, a nonprofit organization of residents, merchants, and town administrators united in an effort to keep Marblehead strong and vibrant.

From developing the main thoroughfares to enhancing public programs, the foundation hopes to improve upon its beloved hometown’s many great gifts.

“Unlike a lot of other places that basically all look the same, Marblehead still has a unique character,” says foundation cofounder and president Gene Cornfield, a principal at Boston Strategy Group. “Marblehead 20|20 is about keeping Marblehead a unique and vibrant community with a great quality of life.”

In addition to improving the aesthetic appeal of this already beautiful town, 20|20 will also help local businesses and the general economy.

“The look and feel of Atlantic Avenue will improve,” says foundation member Ralph Khouri, owner of Khouri’s Oriental Rugs & Carpeting, “and that will improve property values and business. It will bring more people down here and the look of the town will be much better.”

As many buildings in Marblehead date back to Revolutionary times, Khouri considers himself a caretaker and suggests that other business owners should act accordingly as well.

“The building I own was built in 1730,” he says, “and I just keep fixing it because I know a lot of people have owned it and it is now my time to take care of it. Hopefully, the people who own it after me will do the same thing.”

In fact, Khouri suggests, it is the least they can do.

“It’s not that expensive, and the owners get a lot of benefit from the town so they should give back,” Khouri says. “That is what this town is all about!”

While beautification and capital improvement are important parts of the 20|20 plan, according to foundation cofounder and Chamber of Commerce executive director Leslie Gould, the initiative goes much further than that.

“The broader picture is not just about the actual streetscape,” Gould says, “but also about the town and what there is here to draw not only locals but also tourists and visitors from other communities.”

In fact, with its three-pronged approach that includes streetscape, economic and community development, 20|20 covers almost every facet of life in Marblehead.

“We are even launching a Youth 20|20 initiative to help centralize and promote activities and programs for younger residents,” Cornfield explains.

Such aspects of 20|20 will help provide services to residents so that they can get what they want and need without having to look outside Marblehead.

“People don’t want to leave town,” Gould says, “so we need to give them things to do here and places to get what they need.”

Not that Marblehead doesn’t have a lot to offer already.

“We’ve got it going on,” Gould says. “We’ve got a fabulous town and this will only make it better!”