February 3, 2006

Major News For Downtown Framingham: Performing Arts Center Planned

Michael Moran, executive director of the Amazing Things Arts Center, e-mailed the exciting news early this morning that the organization plans to lease the Hollis Street Firehouse in downtown Framingham, if the town approves their bid. The group hopes to raise $600,000 for inside and outside renovations.

"I and the Amazing Board are convinced that we could do a lot of good for the downtown - attracting restaurants, and new businesses to the area and helping already existing businesses. The location is perfect - two blocks from the train station and right on Rt 126. Parking? There's a lot directly behind the building that will accommodate an estimated 50 cars (which will be enough for most of our shows. Additional parking is a mere block away). The space will give us upwards of 180 seats, there's an upstairs all ready to host our small mid-week events, and - yes - there's a fire pole!," he wrote.

"Although the Firehouse will be our flagship operation, we are planning to keep our Saxonville location alive and active.

"Downtown Framingham has a tremendous amount of potential. It has a neat international flavor and there are at least four major projects in the works there - The big Dennison Condominium project (upwards to 200 units), the The Arcade at Downtown Framingham Mixed Use project (including 260 residential units), the Kendall Building restoration as well as the Downtown Cultural Triangle Partnership project could contribute mightily to the downtown renaissance. Amazing Things - an active (300 performance events a year) performance oriented art center within walking distance will be a major benefit to these project and to people living in the area."

While I'm happy for downtown Framingham, I must admit I'm a little disappointed for my own Saxonville neighborhood. Amazing Things was a great addition to our area, and I had high hopes for a flourishing and expanding neighborhood business district with the planned new branch library. But we missed out on that fabulous new building by just a few Town Meeting votes, and now Amazing Things will be de-emphasizing Saxonville as well. Oh well, we still have Amazing Things here in Saxonville for now, and our highly inadequate but functioning library branch. That's a lot better than nothing.

As for downtown, Amazing Things would be a critically important destination "anchor." It's urgent that the town now do work to make sure there's an attractive streetscape so that those attending the center are encouraged to walk around and patronize nearby businesses; and that commuters are encouraged to walk from the station and parking to the center.

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