GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 10, 2013

Kirk eyes new input for city's downtown

By Richard Gaines
Staff Writer

---- — Mayor Carolyn Kirk has organized a working group of merchants and residents representing the downtown business community that, together with the city’s Community Development Department, will lead a series of brainstorming meetings this summer aimed at uncover “shared” principles and values for the Gloucester’s downtown.

The working group charged with directing the process includes Mark Farber, longtime owner of Mark Adrian Shoes on Main Street, Ronda Faloon, director of the Cape Ann Historical Museum, Robert Heidt, director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, Marcy Pregent, a waterfront property owner, Catherine Ryan of the Gloucester Harbortown Cultural District Committee, Leslie Sarofeen, a downtown resident, and Sue Silviera for the Downtown Development Commission.

Kirk announced the visioning project in a memo sent last week to the City Council.

“Over the next several months, the Community Development Department will be leading a planning process to develop a downtown vision plan,” Kirk wrote. “The goal is to identify a set of shared community principles and values for downtown that can guide future work and investment.

“Although it will not be a detailed comprehensive master plan,” Kirk wrote, “the expectation is for a plan that will both reinforce and enhance downtown’s sense of place and leverage existing strengths in terms of workforce, diversity and appeal as a destination for citizens and visitors.”

Kirk has favored the “visioning” process over her three terms as mayor. The process was first used in ward and village “listening posts” in which residents were asked to imagine a future for the working port. The events drew large crowds of passionate opinions, and from them came the HarborWalk, but also the heated debate over hotel development along Commercial Street.

Kirk explained that the downtown scoping process “will be organized around three facilitated public meetings that will help clarify the strengths and weaknesses of downtown, identify near term public and private redevelopment opportunities that can be coordinated around a single vision, and provide a roadmap for organizing and implementing future analysis and a public investment strategy.”

Kirk said she hoped to have one meeting a month in July, August and September.

She said the city has contracted with Utile Inc. a Boston design firm that describes itself as working like a “think tank,” to assist with the planning process, working with the Community Development Department.

Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at rgaines@gloucestertimes.com