By Sue Ellen Woodcock
It was more than appropriate to stand in French Square Friday at high noon for the announcement of a $2.38 million MassWorks grant for the town’s center business-district infrastructure work.
Joining Gov. Charlie Baker in making the announcement was Winthrop resident and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, State Sen. Joseph Boncore and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash.
“Today is the beginning of the Winthrop renaissance,” said Town Council President Russ Sanford.
“We want a vital, vibrant center,” said Town Manager James McKenna. “The town council has worked hard for this for years. In time the center will have a whole new look.”
Ash said the grant was part of the Commonwealth’s Economic Development bill. He added that the agency supports good local efforts and are willing to work with the town to work through a plan for development.
“We’re here today to celebrate you,” Ash said. “The bones are there, we just need to fill in what’s missing.
The development of the center has long been in the works and holding it back was needed infrastructure work on water, sewer and gas lines. The center had a change in zoning three years ago for mixed use development with retail on the bottom and residential on top. The MassWorks grant is the result of the work done on the master plan for the Center Business District.
“With this grant we will be able to have a targeted investment that will have an impact on Winthrop’s economy,” DeLeo said.
As politicians often do they also shared funny or poignant stories.
“We need to be bold in this town and have the vision,” McKenna said. McKenna also gave the governor a box of goodies from Adrianna’s, one of the governor’s favorite spot.
Ash said the grant comes along with the support of DeLeo and the legislative “Winthrop wink.” McKenna acknowledged DeLeo’s penchant for baseball and then handed him a baseball signed by everyone in the center business district. We also learned of Baker’s failed attempt to get into LaSiesta Restaurant one Monday and his and his families trips to Winthrop.
“I think about Winthrop as a small, scrappy town,” Baker said comparing Winthrop to his hometown of Swampscott. He added a nice story about his parents attending a football game in Winthrop and getting lost. Two Winthrop teens helped them get to the game. “That’s the type of kid who’s in Winthrop.”
McKenna acknowledged that “this will be a transformational project for Winthrop, one that will drive economic development.
Work on the gas lines began at the end of March. The infrastructure work alone will take five to six months.
“There has been a long standing desire for business to grow or move here,” DeLeo said. “This is a game changer to bolster mixed use development.”