May 3, 2007

Framingham Downtown Renaissance Plans Next Revitalization Phase

Framingham Downtown Renaissance has issued a 30-page "visualization project" looking at the existing downtown area, its existing  strengths and "areas of sensitivity." I haven't seen a copy of the report on the Web anywhere yet, but the Framingham Planning Department was kind enough to send me a copy. I've posted it, in PDF form (5.6 Mbytes), here, if you want to download it.

If you're interested in seeing improvements in downtown Framingham, this is definitely worth a read -- and a look, since there are a lot of photos in there.

The report sees the "cultural triangle" as a new anchor to bring residents and visitors downtown, including the Danforth Museum, Civic League, Performing Arts Center of MetroWest, main library, and 2,200-seat auditorium in the Memorial building. (The Amazing Things Arts Center would likely add to that).

The report envisions a "3-part process" to: create more mixed-use residential development that would"bring more nighttime and weekend activity," boost cultural triangle activity "to expand the customer base," and encourage more commercial activity.

The group is seeking grants for capital improvements, such as the "rehabilitation of the Pearl Street Parking Garage."

Happily, "improving the pedestrian experience in Downtown Framingham was a key focus of the Downtown Visualization Project." Yippee! Until something is done about the hideously unappealing pedestrian streetscape, it' s going to be tough to bring more visitors to downtown. I'd like to see a "park once, walk to many destinations" environment, not "park and leave."

The report takes a detailed look at various streets and other corridors, the existing streetscapes and improvements needed in each section. IT also calls for improving the waterfront resource that is Farm Pond, where rail yards currently dominate downtown and access to the waterfront is limited. One idea is a waterfront bicycle and pedestrian path with connections to downtown.

It's encouraging that there are people putting together a coherent vision for downtown Framingham. While that alone is no guarantee of success, without it success would be impossible.

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