Monday, December 10, 2007
"We would like to raise our concerns about the proposed redesign of Federal Square Fountain and Plaza which has been put forward to buttress the re-development of the new Hanover Theater. The recently announced plans call for the complete elimination of the benches that are presently part of the plaza. While we recognize the value in improving access to the new theater from the Federal Square parking garage by removing fencing that hinders pedestrian traffic, we feel the removal of park benches and public seating is a step backwards. The removal of park benches frequently used by those who are low-income and homeless in exchange for improved pedestrian access is both an unnecessary trade-off and unacceptable direction for new development. Removing the benches effectively creates a barrier to the presence of the low income and homeless people who currently make use of these benches in Federal Square. At the same time, bench removal isn't necessary for improved access to the theater. Development in Worcester should be inclusive of everyone's needs in our community. For years, Worcester has taken active steps and engaged community residents in efforts to increase public space. It is important that we see Federal Plaza not simply as an "amenity" connected to the new theater, but as a community amenity as well. If we are to continue the journey towards being a creative city, increasing, rather than eliminating public space must remain a priority in all of our development efforts. We ask that you reject any redevelopment plan for Federal Square that eliminates park benches and community space. Sincerely,"
I kind of want to sign it. Because I don't want those benches removed either. To want to promote a little corner of downtown right in front of The Hanover as a refuge for the homeless is assinine however. The theater's success or failure means so much to the downtown neighborhood and helping the city become more of a creative and cultured city. A park full of homeless and alcohol and drug addled folk are not going to help matters. Are people really on this much crack? The concentration should not be giving them a gorgeous downtown destination to hang out in, the concentration should be in coming up with ways to make sure younger folks don't end up in their position eventually. They already chose their path, and yes it is sad. If we put all our rescources towards homeless prevention however, then we can actually wipe it out. These folks who have already reached the purgatory that is homelessness and addiction will take care of themselves eventually. We as a society should not be doing anything to make things more pleasant for them, that's not doing them any favors. If we can make that rock bottom rush up a little sooner that might help them out a bit. Really, let's not give them a comfy place to be on the nod. Now that we have that straight let's work on programs that will steer more people away from this type of life. Prevention. Say it with me. PRE-VEN-TION.
Here is a harsh reality for the young and idealistic because I was one of you and still am one of you in some ways and I am sure I still have many slaps in the face coming my way. Right now you don't have alot of disposable income. Once you get that social services job (that still isn't going to pay a whole lot) you are going to want to spend some of that money. The idealist in you thinks that when you start earning that extra money you are going to keep just enough to get by on and donate the rest to charities and organizations that benefit the community. If you were able to do this for a while that would be great. Or maybe you won't. Either way when and if you wake up in Worcester Massachusetts with dollars in your hand you are going to want to either spend some of that money on giving yourself a very well earned good time or go out and celebrate the fact that you and your charitable friends are better humans then those neanderthals that aren't so charitable. When you look around what you might find is that there is a very short list of bars, restaurants, shops and other things that you are going to feel good about handing your hard earned dollar over too. You will get sick of the fact that every Saturday there are only about 5 things that you and your friends can come to a consensus on as far as how you are going to spend your time and you do those 5 things for years and years over and over again. At some point you will say to yourself, "What the hell, Worcester?" This is the crossroads.
Some of you might think that last paragraph has nothing to do with the arguement. Trying to go into what these two ideas have to do with each other might take a book. I cannot begin to tackle this concept in one blog entry. I just tried and found myself going on and on without any conclusion. I think the only conclusion I can come up with is that I wish more people would put more effort into permanently fixing problems instead putting band aids on them. A park with a fountain isn't going to help the homeless. All it's going to do is make them forget for a while. Ultimately in the end it's up to them whether they want to fix their life. They won't take any of us up on our do gooder offers of help until they are ready. They won't be ready until they reach rock bottom. Let's not pull them away from the fire before they feel it's burn.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Update: I thought it was just the slide show but there's an article here too.
Another Update: I want to explain just what I think is good about this article. It's very simple actually.
Two dudes work in Woburn. Two dudes have no prior opinion about Worcester. One dude reads this Globe article on Sunday and goes into work on Monday. The other dude says to the dude who reads that he is thinking of moving to Worcester. The dude who reads says, "Oh yeah, I just read in the Globe yesterday that for a smaller city they have a pretty good thing going on for live music."
Of course if you rather we could have him say, "That place is horrible. Why would you ever want to move there?"
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The next time you are out and about in the city and you see something you don't approve of or something bad happens to you personally or whatever happens that makes you swear under your breath, "F*cking Worcester" I want you to ask yourself how you got the perception that whatever you are complaining about shouldn't be the way it is. See if you can think of an example where whatever is bothering you isn't that way somewhere else. Then I would like you to think about whether that comparison is fair. I will give an example and this was also the inspiration for this.
Over at Wormtown Taxi on Thursday, Jeff posted a thought about city hall and whether our citizens lack of participation in their city's government might have something to do with the fact that there isn't much parking at city hall. At that point I tried to think of different city halls that I have had to go to over the course of my life.
The one I have had to go to the most is Worcester. There's plenty of parking, expensive and cheap, within a very very short walk of the building. I don't know if us common folk are allowed to park in the garage underneath the building. This is a big secret to me. Worcester has about 175,000 people living in it.
I have had to go to Government Center in Boston quite a few times. I always take the T there though. Never have I even had to think about parking my car there. I did alot of walking those days though. Boston has a population of about 597,000 people.
When I was living in Baltimore I had to go to City Hall once. I took a bus to the Light Rail and then took the Light Rail the rest of the way into downtown. Again, quite a bit of walking. Bringing a car into downtown Baltimore is ridiculous to me. I mean there is no where to park! There actually probably was but I didn't know enough about the city to know where that parking was. Baltimore has a population of about 641,000 people.
I lived in Oxford MA for quite a bit of my life. I had to go to the town hall often to pay for this or register for that. There is a parking lot in the back plus a lot at the Cumby's nextdoor. Really easy to get in and out. Oxford has a population of about 13,000 people.
I mostly grew up in Shrewsbury MA. I never had any business at the Town Hall in Shrewsbury but my parents often did and I accompanied them alot. Huge parking lot on site. Never a problem. There really isn't anywhere off site to park and walk to the town hall. Also of note, the town hall in Shrewsbury sits on a pretty large parcel of land that is so big that there is about 2 acres of just lawn. Shrewsbury has a population of about 32,000 people.
One time I had to go to Meriden CT to get a copy of my birth certificate. They had a parking lot out in back of the city hall. It was a little hard to find city hall through their maze of a downtown but I finally found it. There also seemed to be ample metered street parking too. I did my business but downtown was kind of a pain. Meriden has a population of about 60,000 people.
So this is my history of going to City and Town Halls. Two large cities where I did much walking and took much public transportation, one mid sized city where I parked and walked a couple of blocks to city hall, a small city where there was free parking behind city hall, a large town where there was plenty parking in the emence civic complex known as the town offices, and a mid sized town where there was a large public parking lot on site.
But of course what do I know. The only mid sized city hall I have been to is Worcester's so I don't think much of having to walk a couple blocks to get to city hall because it's all I know. Everyone who complains about not being able to park right at city hall must have been to mid sized city halls all over this country where you can park for free right on site to make Worcester stand out as this freak exception. This could be the case. It could also be the case that they might feel more at home in Boston, Baltimore, Meriden, Shrewsbury or Oxford.
So this is all I ask. When you have an idea of how something should or shouldn't be here in Worcester ask yourself where you got that idea from before you start condemning the city and make sure that your expectations are realistic. I mean let's face it, I think we would all love an NBA franchise here, and we all know Worcester sucks because we can't get one.
That last bit was sarcasm folks.
Friday, November 16, 2007
See the key is that for every negative post you need two positive posts.
The Hanover Theater in Federal Square seems to be coming along nicely. After working for so long on the actual theater it looks like they have finally started to work on the facade. It'll be cool to see how it progesses and I will try to keep you updated. I think they said Spring 2008 for the opening? Can't wait!
Follow the link above to tell them what you want to see. Vote music!!! Vote good music!!!
If you aren't familiar with his piece of civic genious it is at the corners of Franklin, Foster, Green and McGrath. Now don't me wrong, I am not slamming the artists. They were commissioned to do some public art and they did some public art. The only problem is that the public art that they did is a mural of people painting a mural. Does anyone remember the totally bad ass Oilzum advertisement that used to adorn this space? And now we get this?
I am not one to criticize without suggestion but something way way way better that screams "We Are Worcester And We Are Awesome!" Could have gone here. This is the kind of mural that you put in a troubled neighborhood to show everyone that the neighborhood gets along and that we are all working together to make the neighborhood a better place. That is the message this mural sends. It should be saying that our downtown district kicks serious ass or at least give that message.
"Welcome to the Canal District"
"Welcome to Worcester"
"Welcome To Green Island"
Any of these would have been better then this. The city needs public art and I applaud efforts to make this city more asthetically pleasing to the eye but I cannot applaud this. Worcester needs beautification in the worst way but this is heading in the wrong direction. Whomever approved this needs a slap. This mural will hurt more than it helps. A mural of people painting a mural. Wow.
I have been here for one month and so far I love it. I know some things and I have heard some things. What I know is this. There is a Hookah Bar/Coffee House going into the space at the corner of Franklin and Portland. In the picture below you can see where the windows have been soaped at that space. There is a Super 88 going into the old Bancroft Nissan on Salem St. It will be nice to have a grocery store within walking distance just to pick up groceries. I don't mind going to Green Island for my meat and produce but I am kind of stuck when it comes to grocery. Super 88 will fill that need.
These are the things I know about. Things I have heard about that are not confirmed are that the Paris is being demolished, which would be awesome and take a heavy load off of the image of downtown. If Mayo successfully demolishes the Paris Connie Lukes herself should give John McGrail the key to the city. Also the two tenemant buildings on Portland are getting demolished and all of that open space is to be replaced with a brand new residential high rise. I have actually seen the artist renderings for this but you know, until I see actual progress on this front it is all hear say. I also hear that an established cafe in another area of downtown is going to move into one of the basement spaces in the Bancroft. I hope that happens soon. Those empty basement spaces look awful. Mayo should do something to dress those windows until something moves in there.
What I feel that Mayo is doing correctly is they are trying to bring people in before they do anything else. Before offices and before commercial. Offices and employees are great and we need them downtown but in my opinion you can only expect about 12 hours of vibrancy from people working downtown while you can expect 18 hours of vibrancy from people living here.
So I am very happy with my new abode downtown and happy to be contributing to what finally may be the rebirth of downtown Worcester. I have to believe in it you know? I really have no other choice. I mean if you had a son or daughter that made mistakes her whole life you would have no choice than to support him or her every time they made an effort to make strides in their life, right? I was on the fence for a very long time about this city. Now that I have finally decided that this is where home is, that Worcester isn't just a place I am temporarily but a place were I will most likely live out the remainder of my days I have never seen things clearer. And speaking of seeing things it's fun to see progress and change everyday. I have a pretty good vantage point too. Check it out.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I say we take the 9 that are not secured and line them up in front of the entrance to city hall. How does something like that go unchecked? You know maybe the city council should stop crowing about Berkley Investments, Young Park and City Square and start making sure that their own infrastructure, the stuff that they actually have control of, is ready for the added amount of pedestrians that the next few years are going to bring to downtown.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
"YOU KNOW WHO'S PLAYING AT THE CENTRUM TONIGHT???!!!", the voice says.
I tell the dude he shouldn't just come up on people and yell in their ear like that.
He just gives me a funny laugh and yells again, "OZZY OZBOURNE!!!!"
Now when he first yelled in my ear my reaction in my head was like, "WTF, who is this annoying Worcester street person and what the hell does he want." Then I realized hey, this guy is probably in his early 40's. He has probably had a much rougher life then I can ever dream of having and today his favorite rock n roll dude is in town and that makes him so happy he just wants to tell everyone he sees on the street. I can actually relate to that. He even had some old Ozzy concert T shirt on.
Is his wierdo look and smushed mouth and missing teeth making my city a less attractive place? Sure. Not his problem though. A little public art and cleaner streets and buildings would help the city much more than this guy showering, getting some new clothes, and having some dental work done.
I am thrilled actually that this little guy is walking around my city today spreading the good word about his favorite rocker. I am a little dissapointed however in my initial reaction and what I am sure are going to be more reactions like this to this guy throughout the day. Even more dissapointing is the thought that someone might have a conversation with him today and go home to Holden or Sterling and tell their family how "run down" the city is becoming over chicken pot pie.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The Midtown Mall has always been one of the saddest things to me about downtown Worcester. As in many things in Worcester the short sightedness of whomever the management company is who handles this place blows my mind. The Midtown Mall is so cool. The layout of the place. The narrowness of it. The atmosphere in there could be incredible. Instead we have what we have in there which is some pretty sketchy stores and a half decent breakfast/lunch place. One of the stores literally just seems like someone selling clothes out of boxes.
Unfortunately in this case, no one can go in and tell someone what to do with their private property. No one will open up anything half way decent in there due to most folks being scared as hell of the place.
If it were up to me I would boot some of the tenants in there when their lease is up and try to attract a different kind of shop in there. In the Worcester community I know of two different people trying to open up boutiques in the city and I am sure they would give the Midtown Mall a look see if it wasn't so unappealing to potential customers.
We can't however tell the folks who run the Midtown Mall what to do with their building. All we can hope for is that they see the fact that a different type of person is calling downtown home these days and that person is looking for more than knock off jewelry and clothes sold out of cardboard boxes.
Here is the small T+G article on the robbery. It generated alot of attention in the comments section:
Monday, October 22, 2007
But here is the thing though. I've known him since we were kids and we're like brothers. He's an amazing cook... Yeah really good, good musician too, and a good artist. He's got so many really good ideas but he can't seem to get off his ass and get anything going.
...okay, so you won't be over for dinner? That's too bad because I am telling you he's a real good guy and a good person to get to know.
Okay, take care of yourself, bye...
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Over the past few years I have noticed that breakfast has been getting more and more expensive. I remember a time when out of the three meals you could have out at a restaurant breakfast was always the cheapest. It seems that as of late prices have risen and breakfast is going to cost you as much as a good lunch and more than just a sandwich.
Because of this I was thrilled with my decision get breakfast the other day at Dell'ovo’s on Shrewsbury St. I always thought this little place was one of the many Italian restaurants along this stretch otherwise known as restaurant row. I walked in to find about six tables and a short counter with about 4 stools. Dell'ovo's appears to be simply a breakfast and lunch place.
I went up to the counter and was greeted with a bright smile from the woman behind the counter. I ordered french toast with a side order of sausage. Coffee came with this, but I chose a chocolate milk instead. I realized I needed something to read and went outside only to find the T&G box outside to be empty. When I went back in the lady at the counter as if reading my mind asked if I wanted a paper. I thought that was pretty cool.
My food came in no time. 3 slices of french toast on thick slices of italian bread sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar and two fat links of breakfast sausage. I read the paper and ate my breakfast. I have to say it wasn't bad. The french toast on Italian was a nice touch. The food, although fairly good, is not the appeal of Dell'ovo's however.
I finished my meal and went up to the counter to pay my bill. I am handed the slip and stare in disbelief. I look at my friendly waitress and ask, "Is this for real?" She smiles and nods affirmatively. The slip read $4.73.
$4.73 for 3 thick slices of french toast, 2 fat links of sausage, and a generous glass of chocolate milk. Wow. Wow is all I can say about that. I might have to get breakfast there every morning.
The days of The Continental are numbered. By the end of May the title of coolest apartment on Beaver Street will be handed down to some undeserving Clark student and I will hopefully be settled into some new digs.
I talked earlier in the year of moving to Portland Maine and also talked about moving to Brighton. Portland would of course involve me having to quit my job and shortly after my Portland visit I learned that they started a new bonus program here that makes it kind of ridiculous to leave this job. At that point I set my sights on Brighton. I realized however that within a year or two I am going to be ready to buy something and I am sure as hell not doing that within the 128 loop. Being that I refuse to not live in the suburbs and I also refuse to quit my job and I also refuse to move out of Worcester, only to move back to Worcester a couple years later, well... that leaves Worcester.
For the most part I am okay with this as things are really starting to shape up here. People are still complaining but I have never seen so many things happening in the city as what is happening right now. And it's stuff that is actually happening not just being talked about. Worcester finally seems to be moving forward and the fact you can actually see it happening is kind of exciting.
I have stipulations though, and the biggest of which is that I need to be in a walkable neighborhood. Being there are only 2.5 walkable neighborhoods in the city (because let's face it, Highland Street is only kind of walkable, there's only about 4 or 5 worthwhile things to walk to) I need to put my focus on The Canal District/Green Island and Shrewsbury St or something very close to one of those neighborhoods.
I am pretty intrested in The Bancroft. It's affordable and it's being completely redone. There is going to be a fitness center, a lounge and a game room. When the building fills up I can only imagine that the empty storefronts in the immediate area will also.
I went down there on Monday morning to kind of skulk around and check out what was going on down there. I was standing out front putting the rental offices number into my cell when a pretty clean cut dude walks up to the front doors. I ask him if he lives in the Bancroft and he says no but he is with one of the companies contracted out to do renovations. I tell him I'm intrested in the place and he asks if I want to go up and take a look at some of the units he's working on. They look pretty nice, nothing spectacular, but nice all the same. This piques my intrest even more.
Last night I went down and parked my car on Franklin St around 7pm to see just how walkable the area was as far as the kind of stuff I would be into doing. I got out of the car and walked down Portland St and cut through a parking lot over to Madison St. Here I had options. I had brought a book with me with the thought that I was going to get a something to eat. Ping's was closed for renovations. I noticed however that somebody thought it was a good idea to open a conveniance store/deli in that plaza. OOF!
I then briefly thought about getting some Coney and then I thought well shit, let's see how far it is to just walk to Kelley Square. Where was I going to get dinner? Tony's? Yeah, I will just get a sandwich at Tony's. As I approached the Square though I saw Takara and made my descision. I walked in there for the first time and looked around and it just didn't feel right. It looked like a pretty good time and I wanted my first time eating there to be social. I will wait on that one. I decided to walk towards the Broadway, making a mental note to hit the Vernon at some point during my travels tonight and check out the open mic. I crossed the square and started walking down Harding Street and remembered that new Deli/Fruit stand place and made another command decision that if they were open that's were I would eat. They were closed and I was just about to take a right on Harrison and head to the Broadway when I remember that a couple weeks ago I was at Canal Fest and had one of the best burgers I have ever had at the Blackstone Grill booth. So I take a left instead of a right and walk up to Green St. I take a right on Green St and walk past the White Eagle and the new Banner Sports Bar which looks far from finished.
As I come up on the Blackstone Grill I see two tables out front and since it is such a nice night I decide then and there that I am eating outside. I go in and order the veal parm dinner which they are out of so I settle on the chicken parm. I notice they have beer, nothing too exciting but your basic Bud/Michelob/Coors selection. I buy a Bud bottle and get this: I proceed to go outside sit down at the table and drink it. That's right I was out of doors in Worcester Massachusetts, not fenced in like an animal and drinking an alcoholic beverage. In a very short time they brought my meal out, 2 giant slices of garlic bread and a huge portion of chicken parm. I ended up getting two meals out of it and I still feel as though I made a bit of a pig of myself. And this was no shitty pizza place sauce either. The sauce had some pretty awesome chunks of pepper in it.
So I am sitting out there, alternately looking at the Worcester skyline, the sky (I could actually see some stars!) above the asian jewelry store and reading my book. Some dude I don't recognize drives up to the Lucky Dog and gets out of his car and I realize it's Phil MacNamera. I wave to him and he comes over and sits down and we shoot the shit for a while. Erick Godin pulls up and I give him a wave and he heads into the Dog. I pay my bill, have the very friendly folks at the Blackstone Grill wrap my leftovers up, bid Phil a farewell and start walking back up Green Street, across McGrath and up Franklin to my car. I put my leftovers in the vehicle and kept walking.
I walked up to Main and took a right and walked past city hall and took a right on Front St. By this time it's about 9:30pm. I walk down Front and take a left on Commercial. Downtown is a ghost town. There is hardly any activity at all. The thing that strikes me the most though is all the businesses that are closed for the day that don't have any hours posted. Viva Bene I am looking at you!
I take a left on Exchange and look into the courtyard of what used to be the Firehouse or whatever other tons of names it has been since. One of the gates in is not locked and I contemplate going into the courtyard and nosing around but I decide against this and move on up Exchange St to Main.
I take a left on Main Street and notice right away that there are a few new businesses opening soon. A new bar where the old Octane was and a new cafe wer A'brizzio's used to be. If they make as good of a roast beef and turkey as A'brizzio's did I will be happy.
It's really wierd how downtown just shuts down on weeknights. Hopefully with more people living down here this will change. There is one thing I noticed over just about everything else. In all the walking I did in downtown and Kelley Square I never once felt nervous, scared, creeped out or intimidated. As I said, downtown was pretty much a ghost town. The only people I really saw were some folks hanging out in the open bars and folks walking in and out of the White Hen and Honey Farms. Green Island (or "The Canal District" as I guess they are calling it now, what the hell was wrong with Green Island?) had a bit more activity as there were more places open. Even with the activity and the couple of thuggish looking kids walking around I still felt very safe and secure. That's an important thing to note. Worcester, specifically, has a reputation as being a scary place. It's really not. It might be the most beautiful place, and it mide not be filled by the most attractive people in the world but most of them are harmless. I don't see you encountering any kind of random violent crime here as long as you are aware of your surroundings and don't walk into any dark alleys.
I then got in my car went down to the Vernon, got a beer and watched some of the open mic and then went to work for the night. A thing to note about this little adventure is the hard time I had making a decision on where to eat while I was on foot. I think that is pretty incredible. Living in Worcester and having whole weekends where I might not even have to move my car seems almost too good to be true.