August 26, 2007

‘Unlocking Downtown’s Potential’

That was the headline on a MetroWest Daily News article Friday, which I'll have to read in the library this week (I keep forgetting the McAuliffe branch isn't open Saturdays during the summer. I can't find the article online and I didn't by that day's paper.) But the brief bit I saw noted that revitalization is "more than talk," according to consultants working on the project. And one goal is to bring more eateries downtown.

I do hope things will finally start happening downtown, as I've been hearing about revitalization since I moved to Framingham (note: that was during the Reagan administration). Since then, other communities' downtowns have taken advantage of trends favoring attractive streetscape and sense of place, such as Waltham and Somerville, while Framingham's has lagged.

Framingham's downtown has a lot of potential, but someone needs a vision to dramatically improve the streetscape and mix of businesses, add residential so that residents WANT to walk from home to businesses. Planners must make sure there aren't huge gaps in the retail area streetscape, either physically (with unsightly setbacks and parking lots at the sidewalk) or commercially (with businesses that don't add to the necessary critical mass. If you want to draw people to an area to stroll, shop and eat, you don't want a lot of things like first-floor insurance companies and medical offices. There's nothing wrong with insurance companies and medical offices, but they don't add to the ambiance when people are out strolling. Upstairs or side streets work better in the heart of your retail area.) And you don't want it a ghost town after 6 pm.

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