March 26, 2004

Dennison Project

You hear local officials talk about the upscale apartments to be built at the old Dennison complex "revitalizing" downtown Framingham. But will they?

Only if they're built in a way that encourages residents to venture out.

For sure the Dennison plan will bring in tax revenue. But if the residents of that complex are going to add to the vitality of downtown, they have to BE downtown. What's going to draw them there? Will there be appealing sidewalks leading out of the complex to the neighborhood? Equally important, will there be an attractive walking environment from Dennison to downtown businesses?

I DON'T MEAN WILL THERE BE SIDEWALKS. There have to be sidewalks where people actually ENJOY WALKING. Cracked concrete, with lanes of cars whizzing by and no separation between traffic and pedestrian, will not do it. Sidewalks abutting a sea of asphalt, metal guard rails, auto dealerships and junkyards won't do it.

You don't have to yuppify the neighborhood to make it appealing for walk it. But you do have to spruce up the pedestrian experience.

Remember: We've already got a train station drawing hundreds of people into downtown, but I doubt there's a whole lot of spillover to the business district. People drive there, and drive out. It's not a pleasant stroll from the station to the stores.

I can't recommend the book Suburban Nation highly enough for a blueprint on how to create pedestrian-friendly business districts.

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