September 14, 2008

Route 30: What Could Be

With numerous nearby office buildings and hotels and loads of retail, Framingham's Route 30 still has the potential of being a park-once, walk-to-many destination with a real sense of place (despite the numerous chain stores).

Rte. 30 now has two specialty food shops with the potential to draw traffic from miles around: B&R Artisan Bread (a Boston Magazine Best of Boston for bakery bread and North End Treats (run by the same family that owns Bova Bakery in Boston's North End).

Imagine if you could park someplace and had a pleasant -- or even possible -- walking environment to go from one to the other, how many more people would be drawn to come to the area and patronize these local businesses? Now imagine they were up at the sidewalk - wide, attractive sidewalks with landscaping between walkers and the cars whooshing by. Imagine some attractive outdoor seating to enjoy a cup of coffee and pastry at North End treats.

Add to that some interesting restaurants, both ethnic and chain, -- which already exist in the area -- all in an attractive walking corridor, which doesn't exist. Actually, Rte. 30 already has several eateries with outdoor seating -- John Harvard's, Panera -- but you'd never know it from driving or even walking down the street, since both seating areas are surrounded by oceans of asphalt. Imagine if these establishments were at the sidewalk too, all in an appealing pedestrian corridor.

This is the potential of an area that already has the necessary critical mass of retail. However, we need town officials to make it more of a priority to create a walkable destination, so people who live and work (and are visiting) in the immediate area would find it attractive and compelling to walk from one place to another, instead of needing a car to drive a quarter-mile because it's either impossible to cross a street or feels dangerous and highly unappealing to walk down the street.

It would help, too, to encourage clustering of same-type businesses within walking distance (like Waltham did with restaurants; right now, B&R Bread and North End Treats are separated by the Mass Pike exit dumping cars onto Rte. 30, making it impossible to walk between them even if they were a bit closer). But even without that, it's crazy that there's not a more appealing walking corridor from the nearby hotels and offices to North End Treats.

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