GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 6, 2013

The Mayor's Desk: Input needed for downtown's future

The Mayor's Desk
Carolyn A. Kirk

---- — The work that goes into building a great downtown is never complete.

Gloucester has accomplished a great deal in downtown in recent years, including restoration of City Hall, sidewalk and infrastructure improvements, an increase in retailers, and a bustling music and dining scene. But there are still many more opportunities downtown.

In the coming months, the City will host three “downtown visioning” meetings and we need the community’s input. Please join us at City Hall on Wednesday for the first meeting, where residents, businesses, and other stakeholders will discuss downtown Gloucester’s strengths, weaknesses and future.

The visioning series is a fundamental part of writing the next chapter in the ongoing development of downtown Gloucester. By listening to public opinion on what makes downtown attractive to residents and visitors, as well as to understand what residents would like to see in the future, the City can identify resources that advance the area as a place where residents come to shop, play, work and live.

When most people think of downtowns, they picture many things, including restaurants, storefront retailers, entertainment, and bustling pedestrian traffic. Downtowns are where people go to “do” and to “be.” Great downtowns like Gloucester’s blend the excitement of the new with the comfort of the familiar.

Although it is everyone’s downtown, approximately 30 percent of the city’s 28,000 residents actually live in the greater downtown neighborhood. This large residential base is part of our heritage.

Whether on Portuguese Hill or Commonwealth Avenue, as the city developed people built their homes close together and were able to walk downtown and to the waterfront for work and shopping. The dense housing stock and walkable neighborhood contribute to our Downtown’s vibrancy.

Of course, the flip side of a densely populated downtown area means that any future changes downtown will impact a large segment of the community.

Equally important, public input is essential in terms of helping the city address residents’ and business owners’ concerns.

We expect practical questions to arise, such as:

Can we effect a façade improvement to the CVS store on Main Street?

What will happen to the police and fire stations if we move forward with a centralized Public Safety facility at Blackburn Circle?

What would become of the YMCA building if the program were to move?

What can be attracted to the vacant Empire building?

If City Hall were to move to the Fuller Building, what would happen to City Hall?

With all of this in mind, the Community Development Department looks forward to seeing you this month and throughout the summer as we construct the downtown work plan. The work plan will serve as the catalyst for moving forward with answers to the many questions that will be raised as we look to the next chapter of Gloucester’s development of downtown.

Your contributions will ensure the future of Downtown Gloucester reflects shared community values, leverages opportunities and most importantly, is a success.

All meetings will be held in the Kyrouz Auditorium at City Hall, and will begin at 6 p.m.

Hope to see you on Wednesday.

Carolyn A. Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.