April 2, 2004

Spotlight: Saxonville

Saxonville Studios is having its annual spring open house this weekend, April 3 -4, 2004, 11 am to 4:30 pm, free for the public to stop by.

Update/additional Saxonville happenings: The Friends of Saxonville annual meeting is Tuesday, April 7, 7:30 p.m. at the Stapleton School, with a social starting at 7.

The artist studios in the old mill complex are a great addition to the neighborhood. Note: If you missed it, the Boston Globe magazine had an article about Saxonville's shopping appeal. And in fact, there are a number of wonderful features to this area in northeast Framingham.

But some changes could make the area even more pedestrian -- i.e. shopper -- friendly, and truly a regional destination to spend an afternoon.

Great things in Saxonville:

* The blocks with the Artana art gallery and, across the street, the renovated block of Victorian residences and shops. So much is right about this -- interesting architecture, appealing windows, friendly walking environment (wide-enough sidewalks, interesting windows, residences where entryways and windows are part of the streetscape).

* The Carol Getchell trail along the river, brought about by Friends of Saxonville.

* Renovation of the Athenaeum, also Friends of Saxonville.

* The McAuliffe branch library and Stapleton School, which help anchor the neighborhood and are walk-to-able destinations -- at the sidewalk for pedestrian access instead of set way back surrounded by a parking-lot moat.

* The townouses built a few years ago by the river, down the street from the mill. The white-and-black buildings are in scale with the neighborhood, and also offer a friendly, appealing addition to the streetscape, with some entryways and windows facing the sidewalk.

Things that could make Saxonville even better:

* What a pity that the Water Street side of the area is completely cut off from the river, which SHOULD be such a fabulous neighborhood asset. Now, a chain link fence and metal guard rails create barrier to seeing and enjoying the Sudbury -- you can't walk by the river, the sidewalk is across the street. There should be a sidewalk or walking path along the river there as well, in view of the heart of the business district.

Having a car rental garage and lot on prime river real estate is also a pity. Imagine if, instead, there were a restaurant or cafe with outdoor/balcony/patio seating overlooking the water....

* The mill is a nice neighborhood anchor, but a few minor changes could make it a little less pedestrian hostile. The metal guard rails in the Lasting Presents parking lot practically scream "cars only!" Something less harsh -- wood railings, shrubs -- would send a welcoming message to foot traffic.

Likewise, doing away with the Dumpsters on the loading dock right at the sidewalk would be a plus for making the area seem more like a cohesive commercial destination.

The town widening the sidewalks where the mill crowds right up to the concrete, as well as putting some screening between on both sides for walkers, buffering between large brick wall on one side and zooming traffic on the other, would help.

* Thumbs down on design for the new prefabricated townhouses going up where the package store used to be, next to the gas station. Siting the buildings with side and rear to the street instead of front, and putting up a lengthy high fence creates an unfriendly walking environment on the main street. (Think of any street known for strolling, and you won't see a lengthy row of building sides and rears and high fences blocking any view of the residences.)

* Another thumbs down for the two new townhouses on Nicholas Road, where the major feature that strikes you while walking by is the huge garage doors. Couldn't the PEOPLE'S doorways be more prominent, and the garage doors be tucked away more discreetly, instead of the other way around? Huge garage doors at the forefront of residences tends to kill off a walker-friendly neighborhood feel.

* Something's got to be done to make it more appealing to walk from the sidewalk to the stores in the Pinefield shopping center! Right now it seems like acres of asphalt between the sidewalk and storefronts -- making it almost tempting to drive from the library just across the street! Since it's not possible to rearrange the stores, a landscaped pedestrian path at least would help!

1 comment:

  1. Saxonville has some great potential. There are some attractive shops and interesting architecture. Wouldn't it be great to get a good restaurant in that area?