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Monday, July 12, 2010

Shock Of The Day: Greenline Delayed Until 2015

Recent headlines have confirmed what most already knew was going to happen. The greenline is going to be delayed by a year. Rather than regurgitate the story that has filled up other news mediums, I am going to take this opportunity to bring the focus on what needs to be done while the state and the MBTA figure out how to bring the greenline to Somerville.

Previously, I pointed out the need to begin the process of developing and implementing a solid business plan in Magoun Square…a square that will be directly affected by the greenline, specifically, through the proposed Lowell Street stop. I said then and will continue to say that we cannot put all of our hopes and dreams in a greenline extension concept that has done nothing consistently, but get delayed.

At the June 3rd Committee on Housing and Community Development meeting chaired by Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, business owners along with Alderman Sean O'Donovan noted that the unreasonable parking regulations have negatively affected Magoun Square businesses more than the current construction has. Since the January 4th implementation of the new regulations, some businesses have had losses hovering around the 50% range with very little chance of improvement. One restaurant owner talked of Saturday night regulars who were hit with two parking tickets and never returned, while a bar owner pointed out PCOs sprinting across Broadway to slap his delivery driver’s windshield with $100 fines.

During the early April start of the Magoun Square renewal project, the parking meters were taken out to assist the businesses during the difficult time of missing sidewalks and wood-planked entrances to restaurants and stores (a practice that was also done in Union Square during its initial phase of construction). Not only has this helped businesses in Magoun Square (one bar owner telling me he had an increased lunch crowd for the first time since January), it has proved that people will walk an unsafe, skinny, dangerous plank to have lunch in Magoun Square as long as they are not in danger of getting a parking ticket.

The combination of cut-throat parking regulations, potential absence of an economically sound business district and the greenline will have dire consequences for my beloved Magoun Square. Just as much as the greenline can bring people in, it can also take people out. This turnover needs to be at the forefront of all requested business-building research being conducted by the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development. The research, not only should take into consideration the negative impact of Somerville's parking rules (and suggest ways to compromise the revenue need while keeping the square customer friendly), but also produce strategies to boost business while incorporating the needs of the residents, and reveal what succeeds in transit-friendly neighborhoods. The promised community meetings need to be a reality to assure that all business owners, residents, activists, and advocates are on the same page regarding the continued success of ALL Magoun Square businesses. Once the interested and impacted entities are in sync, Magoun can focus on becoming an already-established thriving square ready for the day that the greenline decides to extend to Somerville.

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