By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Business owners, committee members and interested citizens gathered Monday morning for a neighborhood meeting on the town center, French Square and the surrounding areas.
Town Manager James McKenna explained that everyone wants to see a comprehensive look at the center and its future.
“The planning process is underway.” McKenna said. “And the plan is out on what and how we want to do things.”
So far $125,000 in grants have been obtained for funding a planner. Arthur Levants, a planner with Woodward and Curran presented a drawing of what the center area looks like now. Massachusetts Development is also working with the Town.
It’s important for all conversations be under one roof so a solid plan can be developed,” McKenna said. So the town can take action and obtain grants as part of the plan. “This town has a $140 million investment with a new school and new field. Many of the things in the center have been a challenge and it makes sense to make the same investment in the center.” Steve Calla, head of the Department of Public Works, talked about the sewerage back up issues that have happened in the center. Since he began at the DPW in 2007 he’s worked on the town’s infrastructure and has found deficiencies in the Ingleside Park area (which includes the center.) There is no water main on Hagman Road. Others at the meeting shared how they had had sewerage back up into their properties. But Calla said in most instances the pipe going from the property to the sewer in the street was at a flat pitch, making it difficult for the material to get to the street from the property.
Calla said Woodward and Curran need to access the water mains and sewer system. He added that sprinkler systems would be needed and there will have to be enough water pressure for that.
“New restaurants also have an impact,” he said.
There also has to be a plan for keeping businesses in business during any work. It was also noted that multi-use zoning, implemented in 1988 had an impact on how things worked. Calla reminded everyone that he is in third phase of a water, sewer and drainage project. During phase two of the project property owners on Jefferson Street did notice a difference.
Former Selectman Dick Dimes said many of these issues have been going on in the Center since at least the 1960s “I feel like we’ve been neglected in the center,” said Michael Lucerto, owner of Swetts Liquors, who also serves on the citizens committee. “With weeds, missing or uneven bricks and signage.”
He was also concerned about prospects coming to look at buildings and nothing happening. There were about 20 people at the meeting including Peggy Carr, of the town’s Economic Development Citizens Advisory Committee; and Betsy Shane and Wendy Millerick of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce. Others attending the meeting were Town Council members Russ Sanborn and Heather Engman.
Sanborn said there is no plan yet for the center. A plan is needed to help obtain grants and act as a roadmap.