Monday, July 28, 2008

Another plan

The Telegram reported today on yet another proposed redevelopment plan for one of the cities many blighted urban neighborhoods. As most of these plans do, this one has it's good ideas and bad ideas. Good being knocking down that AT+T building. Bad being operating a trolley in one neighborhood that sits in between several neighborhoods that all are walkable.

As an aside by the way, a trolley that serviced Shrewsbury St, The Canal District, Downtown, and Elm/Highland would be phenomenal, but this is only talking about North Main.

Why I do this I don't know, but I usually read all the comments on any stories involving development and planning on the Telegram page mostly to get myself all riled up and the ignorance that gets spouted over there. Every one in a while you see something pretty good.

From a poster known only as "Gonzoworm":

"As a professional city planner born and raised in Worcester, I can hear and understand some of the frustration with 'another plan,' but such plans are the only way that investors and business people get the signal that a certain area should be invested in...however, the city's real problem is not so much too many plans, it that there is no one unified vision for the city...Tim Murray wasn't a plan...Worcester Ctr. Common Square or whatever Mr. Park calls is not a plan or vision either...the reason Worcester continues to languish is that no one can articulate how these competing and sometimes incompatible mini-plans (north main, courthouse, Hanover, canal district, Shrewsbury street, gateway project, union station etc.) work TOGETHER...that's where real planning happens...the city has no trained city planners working for it (sorry, Joel Fontaine) and the the continued recycling of long-time ineffective city hangers-on (see: Steve O'Neil, Dennis Hennesey, Julie Jacobson) and grandstanding unimaginative and under-educated elected officials, it's no wonder people continue to feel that despite all the activity in recent years, it's not leading anywhere. Like Hemmingway said, never mistake motion for action. For what it's worth, I work for a real estate and architecture firm consulting nationwide...large scale moneyed investors often look to see is a city has a current master plan before making investment decisions...Worcester's last master plan was done in 1987 before computers using typewriters and hand-drawn graphics...Worcester is fond of promoting it's innovative industrial heritage and current biotech-university new frontier...but with a no modern, unified plan, we'll be having this same discussion within 10 one time Worcester was a national leader. It's time to reassert ourselves. GENERAL PLAN NOW!!!!"

I think we need more people like this Gonzoworm character getting involved with the reshaping of urban Worcester.


Bob Laplante formerly of Worcester said...

Who has the time and patience when in fact it would be for naught. The citizens of Worcester have little to no impact on the city's development. Its in the hands of special interests.
You can rant all you want about people should be be involved in this city, but the fact is everything you do is in vain.
Mr. Gonzoworm is one of 175,000. He has zero effect on city planning diluted.
The city administration and council doesn't want you involved. They have other ideas how this dead spot should look.
So, just shut up and pay your taxes. That's all they want from you.
Ideas? Keep them to yourself.
And by the way. This is the umpteenth time a major development plan has been put forth.
Same players, same bureaucrats, same results.
You're a dreamer pal.
Wake up! Nothing is gonna change there.

Gabe said...

Hey Bert what's shakin?

Over the past year a small and vocal minority seems to be waking up and realizing how messed up the city is in their treatment of the actual urban core of Worcester, you know the thing that actually makes a city a city? (I know, it's actually population that makes a city a city)

I will continue to be part of that vocal minority Bobby L, whether anyone likes it, whether anyone gets sick of it, or whether anyone gets annoyed by it.

kieran said...

I just got done reading the VHB plan. There are some good ideas such as targeting the surface parking lots for development first and not building too much retail space (given the substantial amount of vacant retail space available). But the level of detail they go into such as the 220 room hotel seem like daydreaming because it is not clear how they get to determining another hotel is needed next to an existing one and that it should be 220 rooms. Interesting to read but the city really should be spending time and effort supporting development that seems to be going somewhere (Mayo Group, Canal District) before initiating new projects:
- Improve the roads and street-scape in the canal district
- On-street parking
- Zoning adjustments to remove off-street parking requirements
- Either build a canal or decide not to build a canal
- Assessment and tax rate freezes
- Improved commuter rail service

Rents in Boston and nearby are rocketing this summer. Anecdotally: Quincy +$300/mo. Salem +$200/mo. Somerville +$300/mo. Improved rail service (<1hr trip and 30 minute headways) plus rock-bottom rents in Worcester (in my exp. half of Boston rents) plus some marketing savvy could help prime the pump.

Any idea what Mayo Group is going to do with their former future supermarket?

When is the next city council election? This crowd is asleep at the wheel.

Anonymous said...

What's the 411 with the trolley? Where are the routes? Hours? Who are they outsourcing the business to? What does the trolley do that the bus doesn't? How will this effect bus services? Will the trolley be greener than a bus? There are a lot of questions I can't find the answers to, so it's tough for me to totally get on board about this one right now.

kieran said...

I think the trolley was just a way for them to demonstrate that they would try to integrate this development with downtown, Canal/buried sewer district and Shrewsbury st. in a manner that provided options other than driving.

The more substantive points they made related to WRTA. ie. we have a designated transportation hub at the train station, yet all the buses hub at city hall/common. Plenty of bus routes all over town but they do not synchronize at the hub or pulse from there making it hard to go anywhere but city hall (long waits for a transfer). And the frequency of buses is pretty much the same (1hr+) regardless of route or ridership levels.

Gabe said...

Hey Kieran,

I have to admit I am only about 20 pages into the plan and have tasked myself tonight with reading the rest of it. My statement about the trolley's may have been a bit presumptuous as the vibe I seem to be getting from every one else about the issue is that the plan calls for exactly what I was talking about, a trolley that runs between these 3 or 4 up and coming neighborhoods in the city.

kieran said...

Overall the trolleys seem a small part of the concept but if built would probably play a large role in the identity of the area. I have to speculate that the cost of the trolleys would be almost insignificant compared to the cost of redevelopment of 11 city blocks.

I read recently that Providence utilized public funds in excess of $600 million to get where it is now - and that was 20 years ago. There is no way Worcester could or should do the equivalent now. It seems to me that the city has a preoccupation with mega-developments and opportunities for supporting and enhancing what we have are completely ignored. There are a pile of recommendations in the VHB report that the city could start on today but I expect odds are greater that we will get a press-conference to announce being replaced by Developers will come if the city provides a conducive environment for them. I am far from convinced that the city can do the development work themselves without the fundamental improvements and expect the same result.

Paulie said...


not for nothing but bouncing from race to race trying to win chump change aint a step up from Worcester either:>)

I'm assuming I am one of the new bangers that Gabe mentions..Somerville where I am from ..Brighton where you live I believe didn't happen ovah night either..I went thru the Somerville gentrification-I know the process very real estate office was in Davis Square when only tumble weeds floated through I have 3000+ lining up on a cold day to race through it:>)

I won't disagree with all of your diatribe...but things are changing albeit at a muich slowah pace than my last genttification