FIG Blog

Perspectives and Articles

The Challenge For Local Government In New England Town Planners, Economic Development Directors Need Create, Maintain Vibrant Town Centers

Paramount Concerns

By Richard Pilla of Paramount Partners, LLC.

Special To Banker & Tradesman | Jun 12, 2016

Read the article here

The biggest challenge for local government officials across our aging region is to create and maintain vibrant and appealing town centers that serve as the nexus for both culture and commerce. Town planners and economic development directors need to be tasked with finding ways to converge a variety of uses and activities to create dynamic town centers that will attract locals as well as visitors from surrounding communities and beyond.

Artist Sorin Bica works on the Front Door Framingham Gateway Mural Project at the crossroads of Routes 126 and 135. The mural is part of Framingham’s efforts to rebuild and revitalize its downtown area.

Many New England communities have been blessed with town greens dating back to the Colonial era, while towns born of the Industrial Revolution typically have mass transit systems that make them convenient commuter locations. Other towns boast historical treasures, while still others benefit from proximity to shores, lakes, rivers and streams. State roads traverse many municipalities, nicely connecting abutting communities so that activities not found in one’s hometown can conveniently be found just over the town line.

A bill currently before the Legislature to increase the number of liquor licenses should be an opportunity for towns to create a critical mass of restaurants, bistros and other food emporiums to give a community vitality and consumer traffic, which in turn will attract other retailers. A strong retail presence will serve as the catalyst for other development, thus expanding the commercial tax base. Old, underutilized municipal buildings with wonderful acoustics in their auditoriums can be adapted for theatre, concerts and other entertainment offerings to attract consumers. Those same town greens where militias, police and fire personnel have paraded on July 4th and other holidays should be hosting art and music festivals. There is absolutely no reason why our towns should not be offering programs and activities year-round.

RichardPillaFor all of this to happen, however, local officials need to understand that for any of this to materialize, they must partner with area businesses and property owners, particularly in and around the downtowns. All too often, the business community is left out of the planning process. Decisions are made in a vacuum with results leaving much to be desired, not to mention causing distrust and skepticism, followed by apathy.

Successful town centers combining multiple uses including residential, keep towns young and alive, which provides a quality of life all age groups will embrace. Unfortunately, too many of our communities have been allowed to age while not taking into consideration the consequences. Communities that fail to provide a quality of life environment run the risk of losing in particular, their younger generations, and with them, tax revenues needed to provide essential services.

Richard Pilla is principal of Quincy-based Paramount Partners LLC. He may be reached at moc.s1500625889rentr1500625889aptnu1500625889omara1500625889p@all1500625889ipr1500625889.