Our latest collection of Wellesley, Mass., business news:
Merchants raise ‘Parking, parking, parking’ concerns in Wellesley Square
Wellesley held a pair of online meetings last week focused on the concept for the revitalized Wellesley Square design (many consultants talk about the “start-up” area). During a meeting for merchants (see Wellesley Media footage), there was acknowledgment that the landscape designer’s vision looked pretty good, but commentator after commenter emphasized that no changes could be made that eliminate parking spaces. On the same subject : Greenidge creates high-tech opportunities for me and the state of NY (Guest opinion Will Talton).
A mockup of a plan that would eliminate parking on one side of Central Street has garnered much praise from vendors, some of whom live in the city.
“We heard you were in the parking lot,” said Wellesley Executive Director Meghan Jop, after the merchant’s umpteenth request not to take up parking, which can be a problem for customers as well as downtown employees.
“Please don’t take our parking space. We already have a problem with parking,” said retailer Eileen Fisher’s Gail Ward, who started her parking commentary by voicing her support for beautifying the Square. “Many times our customers pass by and if there’s no space they don’t stop by. There isn’t enough parking in town, so if you can incorporate that into your plans.”
Clever Hand Gallery artist Reme Gold says, “The motto of real estate is ‘location, location, location,’ the business model should also be ‘park, park, park.’”
Rick Cram, who spearheaded marketing for Wellesley Square, said a survey conducted by the group found parking to be a major problem holding back the shopping area’s improvements. He cites a survey in which only four people said anything good about parking, while 59 people had negative feedback. “More parking is the first step in improving Wellesley Square and its future,” he said.
Demian Wendrow of retailer London Harness, said he found in talking to follow merchants that “Eliminating even one place destroys us all.”
Most of the concepts put together by the Beta Group consultants seem relatively smooth overall, adding trees here, widening of brick bands and sidewalks there. Traffic light work will also be needed. The whole project could cost around $6 million, hopefully with funding coming from sources like state and federal, not just local taxpayers. While efforts are largely designed to increase the vitality of the space, City Engineer Dave Hickey also says that the area is too late to pave the way, so it’s important to consider this broader issue before doing so.
After parking, brick is another hot button issue, with many saying they like the look of New England brick, but overall against its expanded use, especially in crosswalks. Bricks are difficult to maintain, and cause problems for those with mobility challenges, especially when they rise unevenly. The possibility of a faux brick surface pops up, as does the idea of painting a crosswalk in a colorful design (another public art, yes, but this art critic says please no to this driver annoyance that won’t age well).
The possibility of making the current pilot hangout spaces on Cross Street and Central Street permanent, or adding another such space, is also generating discussion. Some traders say they were initially skeptical of the current parklet, although admitting that it is widely used. Kimberly Kissam of retailer Isabel Harvey has her doubts but has found the parklet “very warm and welcoming, and even stylish.” Merchants even had a recent meeting at the venue, which city officials quickly pointed out was evolving into a prettier design as additional components passed through the supply chain.
Brad Wasik of The Cheese Shop in Wellesley Square said forcing parklets into this section of Wellesley Square was like trying to change Fenway Park. “You’re not moving the pole at this point,” he said. Wasik pointed to the current influx of traffic plaguing parklets, and said asking people to buy Starbucks coffee and hang out there for an hour isn’t always going to help other merchants. However, he said that there might be other spaces within the Square that could be considered for such a hangout. Wasik also suggests limiting parklets, along with food trucks, to certain times of the week, such as Sundays. However, city officials say that quickly setting up and destroying parklets, at least how they are currently designed, is not financially feasible.
During street view encounters for abutters and other residents (see Wellesley Media footage), parking wasn’t too much of an issue (and as we learned from residents who have paid big bucks for condos in Belclare, they’re dealing with rattling houses and falling artwork. or glassware as vehicles rumble across the bumpy Washington Street pavement). At least one neighbor says there’s actually a lot of unused parking space if you go about a block from Central Street, and another emphasizes that downtown retail isn’t what it used to be in the online shopping era, so macroeconomic considerations need to be made. in planning. The Sustainable Wellesley group is using the opportunity to create bike paths, electric vehicle charging stations, and other facilities to encourage pedestrian traffic and not waste gas (the city doesn’t currently see a bike path through the middle of Wellesley Square, but is exploring more ways to encourage cycling around it.)
It’s unclear when the major changes will occur with the Square design. Decisions will have to be made by the Electoral Council and possibly a City Meeting, Jop said, and he assured traders and the public that they would be part of the ongoing discussions. “There’s still a long way to go for the design,” said Jop.
Lockheart Restaurant sign goes up
The sign is now for The Lockheart Restaurant, a soon-to-open southwest themed restaurant at 102 Central St., in Wellesley Square next to the fire station. We invite the owner of this taco-plus shop to keep an eye on when the restaurant will open. (We also found at least one bad piece of evidence that a realtor couldn’t take his place next door).