City of Salem in the process of a major facelift

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SALEM (WSLS10) - Big changes are underway in the City of Salem as parking, storefronts and even downtown living are getting a makeover. It's a process that's been in the works for several years and is expected to continue throughout 2017.

One of the most noticeable changes will be the storefronts-- which will go from the flat uniform look we've seen for decades, to a more unique and interesting downtown. The City is partnering up with a local artist to create the new looks for the facades, which will feature projected lights, new signage and an overall updated look. Grant money is being offered to match some of the costs that business owners will spend on the update.

Some of those new facades are already in place, like O'Brien Meats-- while others, like Charlotte's Web Antique Mall, have their plans drawn out and will have the new storefront in place soon.

While there have been some long-time businesses closing down, like Ridenhour Music and Tarpley's & Mac's Appliance, there's also been a big influx of new businesses moving in. City Manager Kevin Boggess talks about plans in the works for a new brewery in downtown-- saying nothing is official at this point, but he hopes to make an announcement soon.

The City is also turning its focus to downtown living and an effort to have more people living in the core of Salem.

"We want people living in our downtown," says Boggess. "We see that as something that's important to keep the life in downtown, then all of these restaurants and potential brewery fall into place at the right time. We've been wondering about the old chicken and the egg thing, and which do you get in first-- but it seems to be coming at a great time for us right now."

The old Chestnut Manor apartment complex is currently undergoing a complete renovation-- with apartments totally rebuilt. By this time next year, there will be 40 new apartments available for rent.

There's also a big increase of new businesses opening up. Clothing store Bella Luna took over a unique store-front on Roanoke Boulevard, selling women's clothes and accessories. A unique ice cream shop, Champloo, has been serving up hand-rolled ice cream since late November.

There's also a new breakfast and restaurant, the Brown Hen. It was opened by husband and wife team, Tom and Victoria Sosnowski. They say they were excited by how quickly people in Salem embraced their new business.

"We thought it would take people time to warm up to pork belly or some of the other out-there things," says Victoria. "But people have been so excited."

Longtime City Council member, Jane Johnson also owns her own business in Salem- R.M. Johnson and Sons Jewelers-- which is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. She says having the new businesses not only helps the existing businesses by bringing more people into the area, but it also provides for the City's economy to help fund new projects.

"We've got a high school that desperately needs remodeling and we're not going to be able to do those things unless we bring more businesses into Salem," says Johnson. "We can't put that on the back of our taxpaying citizens. The businesses provide so much for our local economy, that's why it's really important to attract them."

With several storefronts now vacant, we can expect even more new businesses to open up in Salem-- Boggess says this is the highest level of interest he's seen in the past decade since arriving in Salem.

Another update we've seen is with parking-- many of the street spots have changed from one hour parking to two hours. That gives people more time to enjoy the restaurants or shop without being rushed to leave before they get a ticket.