Tag Archives: Downtown

Worcesterites should read this urban renewal story: Nashville on the rise …

Nice piece in The New York Times. Revitalizing a city is tricky business. Interesting quotes re: TIFs. The journalist and his concerns remind me of me! He’s saying what I’m saying: Let’s really, REALLY take care of the people already here, via great inner-city schools, etc.

– R. Tirella

From The New York Times:

Nashville’s Latest Big Hit Could Be the City Itself

A statue of Elvis Presley between souvenir shops in downtown Nashville. The music industry is, in many ways, the bedrock of the city's economy.

By KIM SEVERSON
Published: January 09, 2013

 

NASHVILLE – Portland knows the feeling. Austin had it once, too. So did Dallas. Even Las Vegas enjoyed a brief moment as the nation’s “it” city.

Now, it’s Nashville’s turn.

Here in a city once embarrassed by its Grand Ole Opry roots, a place that sat on the sidelines while its Southern sisters boomed economically, it is hard to find a resident who does not break into the goofy grin of the newly popular when the subject of Nashville’s status comes up.

Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat in his second term, is the head cheerleader.

“It’s good to be Nashville right now,” he said during a recent tour of his favorite civic sites, the biggest of which is a publicly financed gamble: a new $623 million downtown convention center complex that is the one of the most expensive public projects in Tennessee history.

The city remains traditionally Southern in its sensibility, but it has taken on the luster of the current. On a Venn diagram, the place where conservative Christians and hipsters overlap would be today’s Nashville.

Flush with young new residents and alive with immigrants, tourists and music, the city made its way to the top of all kinds of lists in 2012.

A Gallup poll ranked it in the top five regions for job growth. A national entrepreneurs’ group called it one of the best places to begin a technology start-up. Critics admire its growing food scene. GQ magazine declared it simply “Nowville.”

And then there is the television show.”Nashville,”a song-filled ABC drama about two warring country divas, had its premiere in October with nine million viewers. It appears to be doing for the city of 610,000 people what the prime-time soap opera”Dallas”did for that Texas city in the ’80s.

“You can’t buy that,” Mr. Dean said. “The city looks great in it.”

Different regions capture the nation’s fancy for different reasons. Sometimes, as with Silicon Valley, innovation and economic engines drive it. Other times, it’s a bold civic event, like the Olympics, or a cultural wave, like the way grunge music elevated Seattle.

Here in a fast-growing metropolitan region with more than 1.6 million people, the ingredients for Nashville’s rise are as much economic as they are cultural and, critics worry, could be as fleeting as its fame.

“People are too smug about how fortunate we are now,” said the Southern journalist John Egerton, 77, who has lived in Nashville since the 1970s. …

To read more, click on the link below:  – R. T.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/article?a=1013968

 

Yet another great female singer-song writer …

… all girls need to hear … Joni!!! Her lyrics will sweep up a sensitive teen, the way they did me when I was 16.

My favorite Joni Mitchell album? BLUE. Which I bought in Worcester, at the old Strawberry’s records on Front Street, years and years ago. A great holiday gift for any girl!

That’s what our new downtown needs – a record store. A record store filled with sharp kids who know their music and can talk music with you and recommend lps, etc. A place where smart customers come in and also share their thoughts on artists. This is how it used to be in downtown Worcester. There are still record stores (filled with CDs, books and DVDs) in Amherst, Cambridge, Northampton, etc. Bring back the record store! A place (sanctuary?) where serendipity ruled and you left with a record you had never heard of but couldn’t wait to go home to play just because some cool person took the time out to educate you (just like they did me at Strawberry’s years ago!). Click on links below to listen. – R. Tirella

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2rfbuaMXKM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

And for our Ice Oval  …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCwlEnuXYsE&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Free the Ice Oval!

Yes this is our skating rink! Pretty cool looking

By Rosalie Tirella

We’re hoping Worcester City Manager Mike O’Brien’s Thanksgiving vacation has squeezed the Scrooge out of him/softened him around the edges some. We’re hoping when the Ice Oval opens to the public, it will open as a FREE SPACE (it is on our COMMON, after all!). We are hoping it will be a free, community space where the public, especially low-income families/homeless kids (and Wusta has plenty of  ’em!), can exercise and have fun without spending dough.

City Manager, you shut down the city’s (free) neighborhood swimming pools two years ago. The city has only two branch libraries, after most of them were shuttered and sold off years ago. Our main public library is closed to the public most Mondays and Sundays. Our public schools have no school libraries (the way each school building did when I attended the WPSchools). Our public schools’ arts and music programs have been decimated.

City kids and families have taken the hit long enough!

Now is the time to do the right thing! Open the ICE OVAL to all city kids and families!!!

FREE THE ICE OVAL!!!!

City Manager Mike O’Brien and the Ice Oval fiasco

Ice_skating : People ice skating

By Rosalie Tirella

Drove into Providence, RI, today. What a beautiful little city! What a happening downtown! What a nice cosmopolitan vibe!

The ride into downtown Worcester a few hours later made me cringe: Not because of its looks (well, yeah, because of its looks compared to Providence’s) but TODAY, especially, because of the ICE OVAL FIASCO. And it is a fiasco!

You would think that the public outcry re: City Manager Mike O’Brien’s fool hardy decision to charge poor kids $2 to skate on the ice, $3 to rent skates, $ for hot cocoa and other refreshments would have stopped him cold – make him realize: HEY, there should be no admission fee! Everyone should skate for free! That’s the way the people of Worcester want it to be! I am not their king! I am their city manager – a bureaucrat – who serves at the pleasure of the Worcester City Council. A guy who takes his orders from city council, which takes its orders from Worcesterites.

But no!

A cheap skate, my-way-or-the-highway mentality rises from the depths of Mr. O’Brien’s hollow hollow soul. So even in the middle of a dead zone like our downtown, Worcester families need to pony up some serious bucks (if there are a lot of kids and the family is working class).

O’Brien is wrong to think any municipal give away is to admit to being hustled by the hoi polloi. He is putting the brakes on something even before it gets started. And right now we could really see something STARTING on our common.

The recent announcement that kids 10 and under get in free to skate does not make me feel better. More bull shit from O’Brien. We talk about how we want to reach our teens – make them feel part of the city. Well, if you are a poor teen forget about it.

Something to think about, CM Mike O’Brien: Did you know that every Christmas Toys for Tots has to beg for some donations, such as Christmas presents geared for tweens and teens? Seems like everyone wants to donate toys and fun stuff for little kids, but no one remembers the teens. You know which foster kids are hardest to place, CM O’Brien? Teens. Everyone wants a cute little kid. No one wants a cute big kid.

Thanks, City Manager Mike O’Brien, for sending out that same old heartless message to our young people. A few days ago, I saw a homeless teen (maybe 12 or 13??) at a local Price Chopper. He looked so forlorn. So lost. So hungry. We have lots of homeless teens here in our city.

Why make things harder?

What about the country’s obese/over weight kids? We’ve got ’em here in Worcester, all right. Wouldn’t it have been nice if our teens could have EXERCISED – skated – on the city’s ice rink for free. God knows kids need to start moving. City Manager Mike O’Brien, you could have helped make that happen.

And, after Providence, I have to think: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! O’Brien is gonna charge kids and families money to come down to bring much needed life to this dump that we like to think is our center city/downtown? At this point, the city needs as many people as it can get to spend time downtown. To charge $$$ to skate in the middle of dumpsville is insane.

JUST INVITE EVERYONE for free, OK Mike? Why get anal with teens? Why get anal right before the holidays?

Bureaucrats never have vision.

Strong mayors do.

Worcester’s downtown

By Sue Moynagh

         Recently, I was watching a local news program covering property values in downtown Worcester. As the camera focused on a section of storefronts along Main Street, I could not help but notice the low number of pedestrians making their way to and from these establishments. This is nothing new: Worcester’s downtown is like downtowns in most old industrial cities. Businesses have moved out to the suburbs leaving a pathetic remnant of what was once a thriving heart of the city. Now we are all hoping that City Square will accomplish what the Galleria and Fashion Outlet malls could not, create a bustling revitalized downtown for Worcester.

         The groundbreaking ceremony for Phase I of City Square took place in September 2010. Eventually, about 20 acres of mixed- use development will transform a portion of downtown Worcester. There will be medical and life science facilities, office and retail space. There will also be residential units and entertainment venues, such as clubs and restaurants. The goal is to revitalize downtown by bringing people in to live, work, shop and dine. More people mean more business and thus more needed revenue for the city.

         I am one of the long- time city residents who can remember Worcester’s downtown as a beehive of activity. People did live, work, shop and dine in our city’s center. My earliest memories from the late Fifties and throughout the Sixties are of throngs of people strolling along the sidewalks, patronizing the numerous businesses, entertainment spots and restaurants. Downtown was the primary destination for shopping and entertainment for Worcester, and there were connections to the neighborhoods and other business areas such as Shrewsbury, Pleasant, Green, Highland and Water Streets. Parking was not really an issue because most people walked or took buses.

       Everything was available downtown to meet your needs. Department stores such as Woolworth, Kresge, Grants, Denholm and J.J. Newberry provided everything for consumers from clothing to cutlery. There were specialty shops for stationary, uniforms, athletic goods, hats and shoes. If you collected stamps or coins, you could find them downtown. Books, houseplants, art supplies and toys were readily available. You could pay bills downtown, buy pets and pet supplies, visit the beauty parlor, and even buy furniture.

        For many families, weekends meant going to the Warner, Loew’s Poli or Capitol theaters for a good show. You paid your admission and sat there half of the day. I remember going down to see the classic Disney films with my mother, aunt and cousins. We sat entranced through “Sound of Music,” “The Birds,” and “The Ten Commandments.” There was even a bowling alley where older kids used to go for fun. The Science and Art Museums were nearby. My cousins and I would get roasted peanuts or a bag of hot, buttered popcorn from one of the vendors and walk over to see the exhibits. There were great restaurants such as the Eden, but we also enjoyed a good meal at one of the five and ten counters. When we were older, there were dance spots such as the Comic Strip.

        Things have changed over the years. Quite a few of the schools such as North High, Commerce, Classical and the trade schools are long gone or have moved far from downtown Worcester. I went to Ascension Catholic High School on Vernon Street and many of us used to walk down to see a film or shop for the latest clothes, records, and cosmetics. Many of these teenagers got their first jobs in downtown establishments. Others took driving lessons at schools located on Main Street. These kids brought vitality to downtown.

        There were many locally run banks in Worcester at that time; Worcester County National, Worcester Five Cents Savings Bank, Mechanics National Bank to name a few. Workers on breaks thronged throughout the stores and restaurants. People were encouraged to patronize these banks. Remember the free gifts if you opened an account? They also had Christmas and Vacation Savings Clubs that encouraged young people to save.

       The Galleria, opened in July 1971, was an attempt to revitalize Worcester. All shopping done under one roof! I thought it was a great place to shop. The stores served a variety of customer needs. I spent most of my time in the pet store, the bookshop and in the Weathervane. Next came the upscale Worcester Common Fashion Outlet store in 1994. Parking was a big issue. Why pay for parking downtown when you can drive to any other mall and park for free? Now we have to pin our hopes on City Square.

        The plans for this project sound promising. If people live and work downtown, they will need places to shop and entertain themselves. There are other good developments within Worcester, such as the northern Gateway Project and the Canal District revitalization. Efforts to draw in people to downtown such as the festivals, farmers’ market, and music on the common series are successful. I hope that more positive steps will be taken to develop outside of the City Square site.

         There are several opportunities that are being opened up at present. The Telegram & Gazette building on Front Street has received a grant to do asbestos cleanup at the site. The Worcester Public Library parking lot is being suggested as a site for a skating rink. Notre Dame Church, a magnificent building, is no longer used for worship. I hope the decision makers in Worcester think carefully about future uses for these sites. Here are some things they should consider. How can we best serve as many people as possible? Worcester has a diverse population of all ages and income levels. I would like to see wealthy people come in to live, invest, work and enjoy Worcester, but don’t forget the rest of us. Please consider how developments will connect the neighborhoods to downtown. We also need free and safe parking, and bus service that covers weekends and later evening hours. Please don’t forget our youth. They brought vitality into downtown in years past, and can do so again. Most important of all, do what you can to create jobs for as many people as possible, with all levels of education and skills.

          Worcester’s downtown thrived throughout most of its history, and I hope it can do so again. I know we can’t go back in time. It won’t be the same as the downtown of my youth, but it can still come back as a place that attracts and welcomes people who see this as the destination in our City. I see positive signs with the City Square project. Let’s hope this serves as the catalyst to bring our downtown back to life.

A night in the life of the P.I.P. Shelter (after its closing)

By Ron O’Clair

As I write these lines, I had just hung up the telephone from calling the police department once again this night in order to have the troublesome drug dealers moved along from out front of my building. One would think that with the shelter being officially closed, there would be no legal reason whatsoever that people could use to justify their presence under the windows of my tenants, at what is now 2:46 a.m.

Prior to the first of my two calls this night, I had returned from the Webster Square area to Main and Charlton, having seen no people loitering around any closed businesses along my route anywhere else, all the way form Main and Stafford streets at Gardner Square, until coming to my block (the PIP/Charlton and Main streets), where there were, I counted, 11 people standing in the various doorways outside of closed for the night businesses in my immediate area. Nowhere else along the length of Main Street, only here did I see anyone hanging around at close to midnight.

Recently the great fire happened at the three buildings on the left side of the end of my side street, on Charlton Street. A vacant building undergoing extensive renovation with a new foundation having been poured, and an off foundation renovation of the entire three-decker structure was totally destroyed by a fire. Being as it was situated between the other two burned buildings, and given the probability that there were no sources of ignition such as electrical power or natural gas service to the building, it can be assumed that it was intentionally set on fire.

My own theory is that some person, or persons unknown, set the fire deliberately in the vacant structure to stay warm, as it was very cold that night. … I only can go by my own experience, and my own observations seeing as I came home that morning to see my road blocked off at both ends still, and that was at 8:45 A.M. or so Continue reading A night in the life of the P.I.P. Shelter (after its closing)

Re-imagining Worcester

By Jim May

POINT ONE: EMBRACE THE BLACKSTONE.

To a geographer, the most compelling aspect of greater Worcester is the Blackstone River. It’s our river. We ain’t got much else, really. Farming was so bad here that Worcester County was the last county populated, and even then, the town of Sutton surpassed Worcester’s own population until the mid 1840s.

But people aren’t farming here anymore. Still, the Blackstone River remains the dominant landscape feature no matter how many Walmarts surround it. The Blackstone River is the thing that singularly most identifies our place in the terra firma, our place on Mother Earth.
And because it’s a river, it’s water. And water represents Life. And Life is what we want in our downtown.

We have long stopped embracing the River. To be blunt, we shit on it. We have almost polluted it beyond recognition. The intense industrial usage of the Blackstone left a legacy of pollution. Continue reading Re-imagining Worcester