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Thursday, June 9, 2011

OSPCD Presents Recommendations For Magoun Square to Attendees of Committee on Housing and Community Development Meeting

Magoun Square Intersection
 At May 25th's Committee on Housing and Community Development meeting, representatives from the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (OSPCD) presented research and recommendations on how to stimulate the struggling Magoun Square Business District to members of the Board of Alderman and a handful of attendees that included business owners and residents/patrons of Magoun Square.

The 16 page report highlighted key issues that contribute to the decline of business in the square and it's "depressing" feel as one resident described it. The factors that were identified included a disconnect between businesses and residents' needs, low rents bringing in businesses that lack a definitive plan, and a nonexistent identity for the square as a whole. Magoun, currently, has 7 empty storefronts within boundaries defined by Brad Rawson as, roughly, 525 Broadway (across from Trum Field) to 483 Broadway (Winter Hill Laundromat) and covering across to 518 Medford Street (Olde Magoun's Saloon).

This report and subsequent meeting comes in response to orders submitted to the Board of Alderman at various times by Ward 5 Alderman, Sean O'Donovan and Ward 4 Alderman, Walter Pero respectively.

Those orders were as follows...
189106: Discussion That the Executive Director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development Meet with the Magoun Square Businesses and the Ward 5 Alderman to Develop a Plan for Magoun Square to Stimulate Business, All in Anticipation of 2015 Green Line Arrival.

189727: Discuss in Committee That the Director of SPCD Report in Writing to the Committee on Housing and Community Development on the Results of the Meeting with the Magoun Square Business Owners and the Ward Five Alderman, to Discuss Parking and Other Issues Affecting the Decline in Business in Magoun Square.

After the presentation of the report, resident/patrons and business owners were given an opportunity to offer their thoughts on Magoun and what they would like to see the future hold for their square. I, personally, spoke about the sincere dedication to the square that locals have and my desire to see the gap between businesses, residents, and elected officials be bridged after years of disconnect. Current shop owners spoke about not being able to "sell" the square to potential business owners due to bad business plans by existing storefronts, the revolving door that Magoun Square has become for businesses, and (of course) parking.

It is impossible to have a conversation about Magoun without bringing up the current, severe parking restraints the square is experiencing. Being surrounded by resident-only side streets, viciously enforced two-hour parking, and an over-priced parking lot has made some spaces impossible to lease out for building owners. OSPCD touched briefly on this topic in their report, however, did not divulge in depth as their focus was mainly on business practices and the physical appearance of the square.

OSPCD did offer the following recommendations:

Convene a forum/event to bring together property owners, business owners and residents interested in working to implement a Visioning and/or Branding process for the Magoun Square commercial district.

o A stakeholder forum would serve to establish momentum from the May 25th Board of Aldermen committee report. Such an event could be convened by the Ward Alderman and facilitated by local stakeholders with support from City staff. It is recommended that any such event be held during the morning to increase attendance from business owners. It is also recommended that the proposed event be held in Magoun Square.

o Content of the proposed forum should include discussions of the City’s SomerVision Comprehensive Planning process, as well as the upcoming Station Area Planning efforts for the Lowell Street Green Line station.

Promote a community‐based ‘Magoun Square business network’ model as a catalyst for economic development, and explore organizational frameworks for local advocacy, planning and marketing efforts.

o The suggested model would use a community‐based economic development strategy to pursue district revitalization. The network could resemble the nationally‐recognized and locally‐celebrated “Main Streets” model, which focuses on partnership‐building among property owners, business owners and residents, district branding and marketing, property improvements and small business support.

o The organization framework could also be based on the “Business Improvement District” (BID) model, which is enabled under Massachusetts General Law. BIDs are designed to provide self‐sufficient funding streams to finance capital improvements, service improvements and district marketing.

o Seed funding could potentially be secured from the City or other sources, but strategic planning for financial self‐sufficiency would be critical.

Implement targeted outreach to market existing Business Development programs.

o Existing City programs (including SIP and RBP) provide staff and consultant resources to support commercial property owners via one‐on‐one technical assistance and financial assistance. Unfortunately, participation to date by Magoun Square businesses has been minimal. Current momentum around business planning for Magoun Square could be leveraged to expand the reach of these existing assistance programs.

Seek opportunities to supplement existing federally‐funded property improvement programs with local or other grant funding sources.

o Existing City programs such as SIP and RBP can be of great value to local business and  property owners; however, strict federal funding requirements occasionally prevent  interested business owners from participating. Additional funding should be pursued to  expand the reach of these program models.

The full committee report was accepted as submitted at the May 26th Board of Alderman meeting and a follow up gathering will be scheduled and held at Olde Magoun's Saloon in an effort to attract as many business owners, resident/patrons, and genuinely concerned citizens that want to see Magoun Square, it's current and future businesses succeed and be a positive contribution to the neighborhood.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

About Alpine Street becoming one-way. It appears most drivers are ignoring the new one way restriction and are continuing to Cedar Street from Lowell Street in violation.

Unfortuneately, it's going to take some ticketing by police for some drivers to get the message.

Maybe our local papers can put a reporter down there to take a "count" of the scofflaws.