Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bridgewater’s Path to Downtown Revitalization ―Five Years and Counting

Here is the narrative given to Town Councilors at Tuesday Night's Town Council meeting. It is a time-line-history of steps taken that have led to the Downtown Revitalization Plan. 

The actual plan is available on the Town web site at http://www.bridgewaterma.org/newspage.cfm?page=index&NewsID=39

There will be a public meeting with Councilors, the Planning Board and others to discuss the plan on Monday September 30, 6:30 at the Senior Center.



A time-line-history of major milestones and steps taken in preparation for the draft master plan for Downtown Revitalization[1] by the Cecil Group.
Presented for the Town Council’s first reading on September 23, 2014

After 5 years of increasingly productive work, the Community Development Advisory Committee (CDAC) (advisor to the Town Manager), is pleased to present for first reading the Cecil Group’s draft Bridgewater Downtown Revitalization Master Plan.

As with much planning, there is nearly unanimous agreement that Bridgewater’s Downtown presents problems; most agree on those problems: traffic, parking, vitality, traffic, parking and traffic.

Agreement on solutions is not as unanimous. The Cecil Group and the CDAC have vigorously sought Town employee, resident and business perspectives in the creation of the draft plan. Not every suggestion has been used but each has been heard, appreciated and valued.

The over-arching goal of the plan is to revitalize the downtown and create vibrancy by making it a destination. Thus, traffic calming, pedestrian and biker safety, multi-use (residential and retail) buildings, parking organization, signage and wayfinding rose to the top as priorities.

The goal is for Bridgewater’s downtown to serve a variety of needs for residents of all ages and university students, making Bridgewater’s Central Square a place to “Go-To” not “Drive-Thru.”

Here is a brief summary of the 5 years’ work leading to the draft plan:

August 2009: Under Interim Town Administrator, Jeffrey Ritter and Board of Selectmen Chair, Christopher Flynn, convened a meeting at BSC to discuss a Bridgewater vision

May 2010:       Under Town Manager Troy Clarkson and Board of Selectmen Chair Christopher Flynn, Bridgewater 2020, Focusing on Solutions, formed as a joint effort with BSU and Bridgewater.
·         Three sub-groups were formed: Communication, Downtown Improvements and Land Use.[2]
·         Sixteen citizens volunteered to serve on the ad hoc Downtown committee. [3]
January 2011: A $1,000 peer-to-peer grant proposal to DHCD requesting support for the Downtown Initiative Committee as was written but not funded.

Throughout 2011:      The Committee was re-named Downtown Revitalization Committee with a Chair appointed by the Town Manager (see footnote #2—need for a chair)
·         Full Committee site visits were made to Falmouth and Norwood,
·         Downtown Bridgewater was defined: Around Central Square and down Broad Street to the Campus Plaza (both sides of the street),
·         Information about vital healthy downtowns was gathered from both written documents and in-person presentations,
·         Public engagement strategies were initiated and given priority status,
·         A consultant offered free advice on the CDBG grant application process (4/4/11),
·         The new Town Council’s Development Committee supported half the cost of consultant services (the other half to come from BSU) for a professional CDBG grant writer. Approval 4/6/2011,
·         Presentation of the Development Committee’s recommendations re: funding for a CDBG grant writer and the formation of the Community Development Advisory Committee (CDAC) was presented to the full Town Council which voted to approve on 4/13/2011,
·         The CDAC continued to compile various reports, documents and plans to support a Community Development Strategy for a CDBG application,
·         An agreement was made to partner with Middleborough in an application for a Community Development Block Grant that would include both Housing Rehabilitation and creation of a Plan for Downtown Revitalization. (August 2011),
·         Committee members and the Highway Superintendent undertook documentation of conditions in a downtown target area for a Slums and Blight application; a consultant help consolidate information and write the application (Summer and early fall 2011),
·         The death of our colleague and Middleborough Community Development Director, Anna Nalevanko on 9/17/11 was both personally sad and strategically difficult for the CDBG grant application; DHCD granted an extension for the Middleborough/Bridgewater application,
·         Outreach throughout the fall included presentations to Business Association, on Cable 9, at Senior Center Congregate lunches, Food Pantry’s, SERVE and area churches; flyers were placed at the Library, Town Hall, Academy Building, Health Agent and the Director of Inspectional Services distributed them at locations he inspected. The outreach helped recruit for a Housing Rehabilitation waiting list.
·         September 22, 2011, Community Development Strategy Public Meeting, Bridgewater Senior Center, polling survey of attendees,
·         October 4, 2011, Community Development Strategy Public Forum took place at the Memorial Building just prior to the Town Council meeting. Councilors were given a special invitation to attend,
·         A Presentation of the Middleborough/Bridgewater CDBG plan was made to a public audience (carried on Cable 9) 11/21/2011,
·         Middleborough-Bridgewater Community Development Block Grant application: Approved by the Town Council on 11/22/2011 Vote of 9-0.

Throughout 2012 Middleborough/Bridgewater Community Development Block Grant application was submitted (Due December 16, 2011 but granted a special exception extension until February 2012),
·         Notification received that the Slums and Blight application has been accepted by the state positioning Bridgewater well for additional funding,
·         Notification of application failure (June 2012),
·         Discussions with Norwood to partner for new CDBG application
o   Acceptance of Bridgewater by Norwood as its partner for the CDBG FY ’12 application,
·         Engaged consultant to write Norwood/Bridgewater CDBG grant application,
·         Community Development Strategy complete 9/27/2012.

Throughout 2013:      Norwood/Bridgewater CDBG grant application submitted on February 15, 2013.
·         Award notification received in late July 2013―Housing Rehabilitation and Downtown Plan,
·         Confirmation of BSU contribution of $20,000 toward the downtown planning initiative,
·         Confirmation of Bridgewater Savings Bank contribution of $30,000 toward the Housing Rehabilitation effort,
·         Work on an RFP for Downtown Revitalization Plan.

Throughout 2014
·         Finalization and posting of the RFP for Downtown Revitalization Plan,
·         Review of Proposals 2/11/14,
·         Interviews of top bidders 2/26/14; Recommendation to the Town Manager re: Planning Grant award, 3/4/2014,
·         Award of Downtown Revitalization Plan Project to Cecil Group/Nelson Nygaard; Kick-off meeting 4/3/2014,
·         Numerous public and private meetings to gather information/suggestions to refine the Revitalization Plan:
o   Meetings were scheduled with all relevant Town Boards, Committees and Commissions
o   Data was gathered from all studies within the last 15 years relevant to the Downtown
o   Private meetings were held with some town leaders and downtown business owners/property owners
o   A large public workshop scheduled for 7/24,2014: Walking/bus tour of the downtown followed by a light dinner and presentation by the Cecil Group and Nelson-Nygaard,
§  Promotion of the workshop: Cable 9 scroll, Bridgewater Residents’ Facebook page; Bridgewater 02324 Facebook page; Bridgewater Savings Bank Facebook page; flyers to all town Boards, Committees, Commissions, employees and Town Council Members; large posters at downtown businesses (Baldi’s Pizza, Better Bean, Bridgewater Florist, Bridgewater Savings Bank, Brunos, Cape Cod Pizza, Just Desserts, Library, My Sister and I, Roche Brothers, Senior Center, Sugar Cane and Town Hall); Bruno’s and Baldi’s put flyers in all home deliveries on July 19, 20 and 21 or until flyers run out,
§  Nearly 70 residents attended the workshop,
§  Polling was done and used in the final draft Plan,
o   Town Employees and Council invited by the Town Manager to a special presentation of the Plan at a luncheon on 8/18/2014,
o   Special presentation to the downtown business and property owners 9/22/2014,
§  Flyers hand-delivered to each business in the Central Business District,
§  Invitations with flyers mailed to each property owner through the Town offices,
§  Invitations to the full Bridgewater Business Association through their e-mail list,
·         Release of the final draft of the Downtown Revitalization Master Plan 9/19/2014,
o   Available on the Town website,
o   Posted on Facebook pages: Bridgewater Residents (3,000 members), Bridgewater 02324 (1,400 members); Bridgewater Downtown Community Development Master Plan,
o   Posted on Councilor Colombotos’ Precinct 5 web page,
·         Upcoming: Combined Committees (Town Council, Planning Board, others) for public comments and formal presentation of the draft plan (September 30, Sr. Center, 6:30 PM)




Presented on September 23, 2014 to the Bridgewater Town Council by the Community Development Advisory Committee to Town Manager Michael Dutton.

Committee Membership:
Shirley Krasinski, Chair, Peter Colombotos, Marilee Kenney Hunt, Karen Jason, Nancy Koczela, Susan McCombe. Jennifer Goldson, staff.


[1] The draft Bridgewater Community Development Master Plan should not be confused with the Town’s Master Plan’s draft updates for the downtown.
[2] Editorial Note about ad hoc citizen committees: To sustain, committees need leadership. Two of the three sub-groups vanished quickly. By insisting on an appointed chair, the Improving Downtown sub-group eventually became the Community Development Advisory Committee, has championed two CDBG grant applications, created a state-approved Slums and Blight Inventory and tonight has the honor of presenting to you the Downtown Revitalization Plan for Bridgewater. Leadership matters.
[3] Original members of the Downtown Improvements-group were: Ray Ajemian, Peter Colombotos, Chris Delmonte, Marilee Kenney Hunt, Shirley Krasinski: Patty Lawton, Tricia Leighton, Katherine Light, John Lucas, David Matton, Susan McCombe, David Moore, Anna Nalevanko, Sally Sloan, Frank Sousa, Robert Vazza. Anna Nalevanko served faithfully until her death; Katherine Light was an active participant until her employment moved her out of town and she was replaced by Nancy Koczela.
 

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