SWL: Main St businesses concerned about impact of Reconstruction

by beth on March 6, 2018

The Main Street Reconstruction project is planned to begin this spring. One section of Main Street it won’t repair is Southborough’s “Downtown Business Village” east of Park Street.

Last night, owners of businesses there publicly worried that the project will turn away customers. They also shared their desire for zoning changes to revitalize the district.

The Economic Development Committee held a Downtown Business Owner Meeting last night. The stated purpose was:

to discuss how the EDC and the Town can assist local businesses in minimizing the disruption from the Main Street reconstruction project, and to update businesses on the EDC’s upcoming Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Program.

Southborough Wicked Local covered the meeting:

With a recent survey showing that the majority of people “rarely” or “never” shop or eat downtown, business owners are worried about the start of the Main Street reconstruction project.

“Nobody comes down here anymore,” said Christo Baltas, co-owner of the Southborough House of Pizza. “I remember a time not too long ago – 5, 6, 7, 8 years – when you couldn’t find parking on Main Street.”

Baltas said he’s not confident people will drive to his shop while the road is being ripped up.

“Judging from the small project that they just completed we had several days of almost complete shutdown,” Baltas said. “We didn’t see cars driving past our place.”

Shawn Mauro, whose family owns Mauro’s Village Cafe, says customers will likely go elsewhere if there are detours for a lengthy amount of time

It’s worth noting that the “just completed” project Baltas was referring to was run by Eversource Gas. It was a system improvement project (I assume to replace/repair gas lines). It wasn’t done by the Public Works Department as part of the reconstruction project.*

The article goes on to share the owners’ suggestions for improving downtown business:

Baltas and Mauro both say zoning changes are needed in the downtown village district to draw new business.

“Business is just not generated here because of the strict zoning regulation in the village business district,” Mauro said.

He said surrounding towns, like Hopkinton, has kept a small-town feel while almost promoting growth.

“Southborough has done a great job of keeping it small, but it is to such an extreme that it stunted growth,” Mauro said. “If there is another business that causes them to stop, maybe they would grad a slice pizza or maybe they would come over and get a coffee.”

You can read the full article here.

Last night’s meeting was part of EDC’s efforts to find a way to revitalize the business village. In the fall, EDC held a roundtable event to brainstorm ideas. Ideas touted that night included a potential rezoning project, combined with a Town property investment.

Nothing like that will make it’s way to this April’s Annual Town Meeting. But I’m told it’s likely that attending voters will get a formal update on EDC’s thinking and efforts.

*In response to a resident complaint about a driveway blocked construction crews without advance notice, selectmen reassured this winter that Main St residents will be better notified in advance of reconstruction project schedule/detours.

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