Very interesting "Cityscapes" in the Boston Globe magazine recently, about Central Square in Cambridge.
"The quality of a neighborhood depends on public action," write Robert Campbell and Peter Vanderwarker . "As recently as the 1980s, Central Square was seen as a place in the doldrums.
"Working with residents' groups, the city narrowed Mass. Ave. by one traffic lane. That added 5 feet to the width of both sidewalks, permitting a second row of street trees. Sidewalks were repaved in brick. They were reshaped to neck out at intersections, making the street crossing shorter and less intimidating. Monster cobra-head street lights, which cast a scary glare, were replaced by softer lights at a pedestrian scale. Where there was previously no place to sit, there are now 80 benches.
"The result is a Central Square that retains a rich mix of people and activities and has grown more humane, without becoming chichi -- not yet, anyway."
I hope those seeking to revitalize downtown Framingham take notice. What helped bring economic vitality back to Central Square was NOT widening streets but actually NARROWING the street -- making a more appealing pedestrian environment. Which is more than installing sidewalks -- it's making attractive, inviting sidewalks buffered against traffic.