By Anne O'Connor
AYER -- The east end of downtown is looking all spiffed up, thanks to new fencing funded by the town and the removal of years of railroad debris, general messiness and overgrown vegetation by the rail company.
Around 300 feet of black wrought-iron style fence replaced an old chain link fence across the street from the Town Hall and Post Office area. The neighborhood across the tracks includes St. Andrews Episcopal Church.
Workers and heavy equipment from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Keolis were hard at work for several days, according to an email from Alan S. Manoian, director of Ayer's Office of Community and Economic Development.
"We were happy to do it," said Tory Mazzola, director of public affairs at Keolis, the operating partner of of the commuter line for the MBTA. "We're grateful it turned out to be such an improvement for the community."
Keolis looks forward to staying in touch with the community in the future, he said.
The project "is a noteworthy demonstration of how the best approach to downtown urban space design is an "incremental design improvement' approach," Manoian wrote.
Now, a line of 20- to 25-year-old elm trees are visible. Many elms, which were a popular tree for urban streets in New England, died from Dutch elm disease.
More changes are planned on the eastern end of Main Street in spring 2018. There will be new landscaping. The waiting station across the street from Town Hall will become an outdoor visual art gallery displaying railroad heritage art, text and wayfinding signage.
The Office of Community and Economic Development suggested the changes at the request of Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand, Manoian wrote.
They were intended to create pride in place and to encourage the MBTA, Keolis and Pan Am Railways to clean the debris, he wrote.
The December 2016 Town Meeting approved $15,000 for the fence. The invoice from Middlesex Fence Company came in $620 higher. His office's budget will make up the difference, Manoian said in a voice mail.
"This project supports and advances the upcoming redevelopment and renaissance of Downtown Ayer's Historic Depot Square at the Ayer Commuter Rail Station in 2018," Manoian wrote.
As part of the changes planned at Depot Square, a pedestrian area will replace a building near the tracks. Plans call for expanding the parking area across Main Street with a deck.
Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.