In the run-up to the kickoff of the Somerville by Design: Winter Hill neighborhood planning process happening in fall 2014, OSPCD conducted a series of stakeholder interviews with a sample of businesses, along with other key stakeholders, in the Central Broadway corridor to complement our community engagement work on Mindmixer, an online engagement tool to solicit input and feedback. Working with one of our key consultants on the Winter Hill project, Ed Starkie of Urban Advisors (www.urbanadvisors.com), our staff talked with over 15 small businesses, in addition to other key stakeholders, to begin to tease out some of their perspectives on key opportunities in Winter Hill, issues facing small businesses, and priorities for the upcoming neighborhood planning process. A summary of the key findings are below:
Excitement about potential increased density in the neighborhood
Several local businesses expressed excitement about potentially new customers in the neighborhoods with new development or adding height to existing commercial structures. While local demand does already exist for many existing businesses, opportunities for more customers was appealing to many, particularly for one business, who was intrigued by more residents in Winter Hill, and it “hadn’t even occurred to him” to potentially build up on his existing property to accommodate that.
Need for anchor business or anchor development
“There’s not a huge reason to come to Central Broadway” was a refrain heard from many local businesses, who suggested that there needed to be an anchor business or development to entice more people to come to the neighborhood. Many cited the Star Market location as a potential location as well as proposing a café shop or grocery store as a potential new anchor business.
Examining parking policy in Winter Hill
With Central Broadway improvements being a major component of the Somerville by Design: Winter Hill process, several businesses were excited about the opportunity to examine parking policy along Broadway, Temple Street, Main Street, and Medford Street as part of the process. Some adjacent businesses, at the corner of Broadway Street and Main Street, have competing parking needs, with some businesses needing quick, consistent turnaround conducive to metered parking while other service-based businesses serve customers needing to stay longer at their place of business.
Enhance public realm upgrades on the sidewalks and the streets
In addition to examining parking policy in Winter Hill, local businesses were also interested in potential public realm upgrades on the sidewalks and the streets to upgrade the aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood, including repaving the streets, adding more streetlights, benches, and trees to make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly.
Interest in upgrading the quality of the local business community
With infrastructure improvements being a large component of the planning process, businesses also discussed how their business or property could participate in the future look of the neighborhood. From participating in the city’s Commercial Property Improvement Program to working with the city on technical assistance initiatives, the Winter Hill planning process will serve, for many business owners, as a leverage point for additional private investment.
While the summary above is not meant to convey the entire “voice of the Winter Hill small business community,” it does provide a strong sampling of initial concerns and opportunities voiced by the diverse businesses and business owners found on Winter Hill. Most importantly, all businesses interviewed expressed an interest in continuing to stay abreast of additional conversations about the Winter Hill process.
Are you a small business? Want to share your initial questions, comments, or feedback about the Central Broadway district? Contact Max MacCarthy in Economic Development at OSPCD at 617-625-6600 x 2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned for future postings on key perspectives from the neighborhood.