Friday, January 18, 2013

This Won't Win Me Any Friends But...

Can we be a bit more realistic about the gigantic surface lot behind the library? I have felt for a long time that the number one priority for Worcester should be doing anything, ANYTHING, to create a densely populated, majority middle class, urban neighborhood in this city. Really, anything short of doing something that is actually going to kill people this NEEDS to happen.

I was thinking about this today and in what has become a familiar theme on this blog I thought, well, what do other cities do? Do other cities comparable to Worcester have gigantic municipal lots adjacent to their library building? Never mind lots that are close to twice the size of the building itself? I decided to find out.

Lowell? No
Springfield? No
New Haven? No
Manchester? Not adjacent but close by and tiny
Bridgeport? Yes, about 30 spaces
Portland? No
Waterbury? Yes, but small
Syracuse? No
Albany? Yes, but small
Rochester? No
New Bedford? No
Buffalo? Possibly: 2 level deck, not adjacent, but a block away.

It has always irked me how on one hand Worcester wonders why it can't turn itself around, but on the other hand insists on doing things differently than everyone else time and time again and wondering why it never turns out well. Kind of like a chef who insists on being a trend setter but continues to put out food that tastes like shit. We have been lucky to have this lot next to the library for as long as we have. By all things that make sense as far as urban design goes it should never have been there in the first place. There are compromises to be made however. We can still put a building on the corner of Salem and Myrtle and have plenty of free municipal parking left over. Still much more than any of the above cities can boast for their public libraries. We can build a parking garage and offer validation to Library patrons (this one is a bit trickier however). Either way there are things to discuss here. This plan is a good one. The tone I am hearing that we should throw the whole thing out over the potential loss of a municipal lot that shouldn't even be there in the first place is capital C crazy to me. I am not sold either of course. I think all of these plans should also be presented with a marketing strategy as to exactly how the mixed use spaces will be filled once completed.
Please though, let's try to get this one going and figure out a way to all stand behind it. There is nothing this city needs more than a real mixed use urban neighborhood densely populated with market rate owners and renters and the businesses, amenities, and employers that will service them. There needs to be a neighborhood in urban Worcester that people want to live in. This neighborhood has the chance to be that with this plan.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hello Worcester, It's Me Gabe


Let me wipe the dust off of this blog.

I was raised out of retirement today. Last night I attended a discussion on the plan for the Theater District in Worcester. I liked it so much I am even accepting the Theater District as a name for the neighborhood. I think the main reason I am accepting it is because the plan actually calls for a second theater in the neighborhood besides the Hanover.

After the plan was presented the WBDC and the consultants who drew up the master plan opened the floor up to comments, questions, and critiques. Everything was mostly positive. Good points were made, but there was one question that was asked that is the very thing that made me take to the ol My Five Senses again. Someone raised their hand and asked about the age old dirty word, gentrification. This has been bugging me all day. See I am not worried about it. As a matter off fact I usher it in with open arms and give it a fruit cake and say, WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD GENTRIFICATION! I AM GLAD YOU DECIDED TO MOVE IN!

I get it, no one should be priced out of their own neighborhood. Does this neighborhood really have an identity though? Is there a tight nit community here that will be displaced? People who have worked hard to make this neighborhood their own?

Worcester desperately needs an urban neighborhood densely populated with market rate housing. DESPERATELY  This is not an exaggeration here. Every year we lose some of our best and brightest to cities with neighborhoods where dope fiends aren't hangin out by the front doors nightly. Where people aren't pissing in the streets, and were people for the most part, know how to treat one another. And don't give me any of your bullshit. I lived in Main South for almost ten years and I have lived in the “Theater District” for about 5. I have friends that I made who lived in the neighborhood from Detroit who say this is some of the worst they have seen. There is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy a good standard of living. Nothing at all. All I want is one urban neighborhood with majority market rate housing in this city. Really? That's too much to ask? I hope this plan is successful and that it takes shape at least somewhat close to how it was presented last night. That's all I got for now. We'll see if I have some more soon. Hello blogosphere. It's been a while.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Theater District" Oh well

So it looks like I live in the "Theater District." (Yes I know this is an old article) As I have said before I cannot stand this neighborhood name. I mean it's fine for other places. Neighborhoods that have more than one theater in the "district." I mean to be honest I guess the "Theater District" does have three theaters. I mean you have the Hanover of course. Then you have the Paris. I am fairly certain also that there is some sort of theater space in the old School of Performing Arts on Chatham St. You know, you could even go so far as to include the New Art over on Pleasant in this "Theater District".

Now if you are a positive person, you could put a twist on this and say that all three of these Theaters will be developed and opened up as maybe a small arthouse theater or a Foothills style playhouse or any other number of things that could be done and would be truly truly amazing. My guess though is that the people who came up with this idea to call this neighborhood the "Theater District" weren't even thinking about these three other theaters in their redevelopment plan.

Now don't get me wrong. There are a whole lot of positives here. Just the fact that Worcester is attempting to name and brand another neighborhood as well as define it's borders is enough to make me want to do a little dance. I just cannot agree with the name the "Theater District."

A thing that Worcester needs to be wary of is creating false impressions. There are things you can say that to an outsider create certain expectations. Phrases like "Theater District" or "Second Largest City in New England" or "Canal District" create an expectation that is in no way lived up to in the Woo. This in turn leaves a sour taste in an outsiders mouth. It seems like terms like this are thrown around not to entice outsiders, but instead to try and give all of us something to be proud of. Maybe make decision makers feel like they are accomplishing something with their decisions. Well if I live in the "Theater District" then I guess the "Theater District" is where I live. I sincerely hope that someday I can say it with pride to a non Central Masser and they will recognize my neighborhood and maybe ask me what it's like to live there. Until then, maybe I will have a memorial service for "Federal Square." I sure liked that name and liked the thoughts of the future that came to my head when thinking about it.

Viva la Theater District..... I guess.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rollins 2011

My 5 Senses has been silent for close to a year now. The main reason being is some of my readers got very vocal about me putting up or shutting up and shut up I have done since last August. In that time I have done a lot of thinking about how I feel about Worcester Massachusetts, if I want to stay or go, and if I do stay what I want to do to make it the kind of place that I and everyone that lives here can feel proud to call home.

I am hereby announcing my candidacy for an at large seat on the Worcester City Council. For too long people who do not work, live, and play in our urban center have controlled the destiny of our urban center and for the most part have ignored it's quality of life issues.

Join us this Thursday at Jak's Pub at 536 Main Street between 7pm and 9pm for a campaign kick off party/fundraiser. Entertainment will be provided by two of Worcester's finest singer/songwriters, Scott Ricciuti and Michael Thibodeau. We have a great deal of work to do and need your help to do it. This is something that has a serious reality of happening and I am excited at the possibilities. A donation to the campaign of $20 is suggested however any donation is appreciated up to and including your time and presence.

Thanks for reading this blog over the years folks! Your comments both on line and in person are what make me have the energy and confidence to make this happen.

Hope to see you on Thursday.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Get Rich Quick

A coworker just got back from the Dominican Republic. In a conversation about how things are down there he was saying that a popular scam by the locals that is often done on Americans is folks asking to get paid to watch your car because the cities there are so "scary" that if you leave your car unattended it will "certainly be stolen."

So when is the next show at the Hanover?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You can complain....

Article today in the Telegram about the sale of the Chevalier building in the Canal District to Winn Management. Comments are filled with boobs as per usual. So first order of business Worcester needs to do is abolish the term low income housing and start calling it what everyone else does: rent control. Next thing they need to do if they are going to keep funding this stuff is start educating the public on what rent control is, who is eligible, and how they can benefit from it.


That is how much you should be making to be eligible for one of these apartments. There are real good, honest, hardworking folks making this kind of money. Young folks just out of college that are living with roommates they can't stand in drafty 3 deckers in parts of the city a lot shittier than the Canal District. Parts of the city where they need to get in their car to get some good take out or go to a decent bar, or go shopping at a good thrift store. Parts of the city where they need to take a car or get in a cab to get to the commuter rail. Parts of the city where it takes them 15 minutes just to get to 290 in rush hour. And I don't know if you have looked around Water St in a while, but parts of the city where they may not feel as free with their sexuality as they might in the Canal District.

We as a city can blame Winn all we want if this fails (and they would deserve some of the blame) but we as a city are funding a part of this and you know what? It's a done deal. So instead of being the cowpokes that we are and not understanding the difference between clustered low income housing in an already ghetto-ized neighborhood and rent control in a hip, up and coming neighborhood, how about we do things like direct people looking for a place to live to this neighborhood and you know, be a little fucking positive for once?

I don't believe Worcester can be what I want it to be anymore, but that doesn't mean I don't think that stuff can't work out sometimes as intended. If I was single, 23 years, just out of college, and living in Worcester I can't think of anywhere else I would want to be than the Canal District because there is actually shit going on there all the time on a weekly (most of the time nightly) basis year round. You can't say that about any other neighborhood in Worcester.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Some True Nerd Shit

So this is some true nerd number running right here and this post comes as a companion to my last post.

After a recent trip to Austin and some research I did upon my return it occurred to me that most large American cities are much bigger land wise than the large cities we have here in the Northeast. Due to this people who have spent most of their lives living in the Northeast may have a distorted view of what makes a large city. I contend that because of the city and town system of New England, even though the towns surrounding a large city are autonomous, independent and have their own municipal governments the group of towns and cities themselves are what dictate the culture of the metropolitan area that gives the core city it's reputation. So I present to you the stats for Worcester, Boston, Providence, Lowell, Hartford, and Springfield. 1st column is the population, second column is the land area in sq miles, third column is the density people per square mile. On the bottom you will find the totals. Since Austin was the inspiration for this I tried to get as close to 300 sq miles as I could. This is by no means scientific but I do think it illustrates my point, which is to stop thinking of Worcester as the second biggest city and trying to get it to live up to all the expectations that entails.

So to start off with Worcester:

Worcester 182,596 37.60 4,678.10
Shrewsbury 31,640 20.70 1,526.30
Westborough 17,997 20.50 876.90
Auburn 16,259 15.40 1,035.30
Holden 15,621 35.00 446.40
Grafton 14,894 22.70 655.00
Northborough 14,013 18.50 756.10
Clinton 13,435 5.70 2,355.70
Oxford 13,352 26.60 501.50
Northbridge 13,182 17.20 767.20
Millbury 12,784 15.70 812.50
Spencer 11,691 32.90 355.90
Charlton 11,263 42.50 264.80
Leicester 10,471 23.40 448.30
West Boylston 7,481 12.90 580.00
Paxton 4,386 14.70 297.70
Boylston 4,008 16.00 250.00

372,547 293.00 1,271.49


Boston 620,535 48.43 12,813.00
Cambridge 105,594 6.43 15,767.96
Quincy 92,339 16.80 5,496.40
Lynn 87,122 10.80 8,066.90
Newton 83,271 18.10 4,600.60
Somerville 74,405 4.10 18,147.60
Waltham 59,758 12.70 4,705.40
Malden 55,712 5.10 10,923.90
Medford 55,565 8.10 6,859.90
Revere 55,341 5.90 9,379.80
Weymouth 53,272 17.00 3,133.60
Arlington 41,144 5.20 7,912.30
Chelsea 38,203 2.20 17,365.00
Everett 37,269 3.40 10,961.50
Braintree 34,422 13.90 2,476.40
Watertown 32,521 4.10 7,932.00
Randolph 30,168 10.10 2,987.00
Needham 28,263 12.60 2,243.10
Melrose 26,708 4.70 5,698.30
Wellesley 26,613 10.18 2,614.10
Saugus 26,078 11.00 2,373.70
Milton 25,961 13.00 1,976.00
Dedham 24,132 10.50 2,298.30
Belmont 23,356 4.70 4,969.40
Canton 21,916 18.90 1,159.60
Winthrop 20,154 2.00 10,077.00
Hull 11,050 3.00 3,648.90
Nahant 3,632 1.20 2,918.70

1,794,504 284.14 6,315.56


Providence 171,557 18.50 9,473.00
Warwick 85,808 35.50 2,457.00
Cranston 79,269 28.60 2,774.70
Pawtucket 71,765 8.70 8,437.00
East Providence 49,515 13.40 3,692.00
North Providence 32,411 5.70 5,720.20
West Warwick 29,581 7.90 3,728.70
Johnston 28,195 23.70 1,191.40
Lincoln 20,898 18.20 1,146.60
Smithfield 20,613 26.60 775.30
Central Falls 18,683 1.20 18,683.00
Barrington 16,812 8.40 1,997.90
Scituate 10,324 48.70 212.10

635,431 245.10 2,592.54


Hartford 124,512 17.30 7,025.50
New Britain 71,254 13.30 5,358.70
West Hartford 61,173 22.00 2,781.00
Manchester 55,572 27.30 2,036.00
East Hartford 49,173 18.00 2,732.00
Newington 29,676 13.20 2,248.00
Vernon 29,491 17.70 1,666.00
Windsor 28,778 29.60 972.00
Wethersfield 26,220 12.40 2,115.00
South Windsor 25,985 28.00 928.00
Farmington 24,941 28.10 888.00
Bloomfield 20,581 26.00 792.00
Berlin 19,590 26.50 739.00
Rocky Hill 18,760 13.50 1,390.00
Windsor Locks 12,411 9.00 1,379.00

573,176 273.90 2,092.65


Springfield 150,640 32.10 4,692.80
Chicopee 54,563 22.90 2,389.70
Westfield 40,072 46.60 860.30
Holyoke 39,958 21.30 1,871.40
Agawam 28,144 23.20 1,210.90
West Springfield 27,899 16.80 1,665.70
Ludlow 21,209 27.20 752.10
South Hadley 17,196 17.70 971.00
Longmeadow 15,633 9.00 1,732.50
East Longmeadow 14,100 13.00 1,087.10
Wilbraham 13,473 22.20 606.30
Belchertown 12,968 52.70 245.90
Palmer 12,497 31.50 396.30
Southwick 8,835 31.00 285.40
Hampden 5,171 19.60 263.30

436,422 281.40 1,550.90


Lowell 103,512 13.80 7,500.90
Methuen 43,979 22.40 1,963.30
Billerica 42,038 25.90 1,623.00
Chelmsford 34,128 22.70 1,503.40
Andover 31,247 31.00 1,007.80
Tewksbury 29,607 20.70 1,430.30
Dracut 29,498 20.90 1,411.40
Burlington 25,034 11.80 2,121.50
Westford 22,066 30.60 712.10
Wilmington 21,679 17.10 1,267.80
Bedford 13,146 13.70 959.60
Tyngsborough 11,860 16.90 701.80
Groton 10,641 32.80 324.40

418,435 280.30 1,492.81

So there it is. Again, I wrote my last entry on the fly without looking back at these numbers so the numbers I quoted were exagerated, however, these numbers here, all taken from 2000 census numbers do illustrate my point. If all cities in New England were southern city size, Worcester would be number 6 of the bunch (maybe further down as I haven't run the numbers for New Haven or Bridgeport, which by the rules I set would probably just be one gigantic city).

The city (government and it's citizens) need to stop referring to the city as the second largest in New England because it simply is not and it leads to expectations that simply cannot and will not be met.