Archive for Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great street

Massachusetts Street isn’t the same as it was 50 or 100 years ago, but it still has lots to offer.

October 14, 2010


What goes into being one of the greatest streets in America?

According to the American Planning Association, Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence is one of those streets. Being one of 10 streets so honored this year is a nice recognition and confirms the positive opinion of many local residents, but what exactly does it mean?

The APA’s website reveals several common elements for the 10 streets on this year’s “best” list. They all have a link to their communities’ history. They are walkable and architecturally appealing. They accommodate different kinds of businesses, but mostly restaurants, bars, boutiques and other small shops. Although they may have been at one time, the streets don’t appear to be the current retail centers in their cities. They are, however, a center of activity for both their own residents and visitors.

In other words, Lawrence’s Massachusetts Street fits right in.

Jane Pennington, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc., said the APA recognition reinforces the image that Lawrence wants to sell to both visitors and residents. “Coming to Massachusetts Street is like stepping back in time in a lot of ways, just the whole atmosphere is warm and inviting. It is very historic and there’s a lot of character.”

In what way is it like “stepping back in time”? Fifty or 100 years ago, Lawrence was a far different place. It played a much greater role as the city’s center of business activity. It included most of Lawrence’s major retailers, including grocery stores and car dealers. Residents of 50 or 100 years ago would be amazed at how few downtown businesses cater to the basic necessities of life.

What those people might recognize, though, are some of the positive attributes recognized by the APA and gaining attention from city officials seeking to bring new vitality to Lawrence’s downtown.

According to APA, a “great street” is one that has strong urban design or architectural features and encourages human contact and social activities. It is lined with a variety of interesting activities and “has a memorable character.”

The criteria set by the national planning group, in fact, indicate that local leaders may on the right track when they say the downtown Lawrence “experience” plays a more important role than individual businesses do when it comes to luring people downtown to live, work and play. Final Fridays, the recent Busker Fest and other downtown events feed that experience and, hopefully, benefit the downtown businesses that provide a base for those activities.

Responding to the “great street” designation, Mayor Mike Amyx said Massachusetts “really is our town square. It represents our community and what it believes.” Back in the 1980s, Lawrence believed it didn’t need a downtown mall development. Massachusetts Street today reflects that decision.

At least according to APA, it may not have been a bad choice.


justforfun 7 years, 3 months ago

Because of the sensitive nature of this story, editors are approving comments before they go live. Comments that are submitted will be reviewed quickly by an editor, and will be posted if they meet our specific guidelines for these comment threads. If they don't meet those guidelines, they may be allowed to go live later, or they may be deleted from the system.

Wait,,,,,,,, LJW people may sensitive hurtfull things about downtown mass!!!!!
Paper is now laughable!!!!

WilburM 7 years, 3 months ago

Streets do evolve, and often it's in spite of potential actions, rather than because of them. More than 20 years ago the commission was ready to approve a "Big Box" that would sit right where Liberty Hall and the Free State Brewery (and the storefront Gap) are today. Mass. would have been cut off from the River and parking would have been even more problematic.

The box was stopped, commissioners voted out of office, and the downtown street scene has evolved. It continues to, with stores moving in and out, even in tough economic times.

Mass has always shown a lot of resilience, and it continues to.

Phil Minkin 7 years, 3 months ago

WillburM is right. It's ironic that the some of the people praising downtown and trumpeting the selection in the top 10 were promoting it's destruction. LJW, the Chamber, Amyx and some downtown merchants were all were eager to see a suburban type mall downtown. The petition drive by Citizens for a Better Downtown brought the issue to a vote and the mall was overwhelmingly defeated.

nobody1793 7 years, 3 months ago

Know what would make downtown awesome? A McDonalds. With no drive-thru. Right where Chipotle is. And they could hire the slowest people ever. And people could picket globalization. Yeah, that would be awesome.

pace 7 years, 3 months ago

Since the owner of the paper was a proponent for killing downtown and wanted them to build cornfield malls everywhere I could see why comments might be moderated. I remember a lot of editorials denouncing the protective nature of a variety of commissions and community leaders for their stance against the LJW dream of giant malls and big ad revenues. I still wonder why Dolph put his trash, loading dock and a windowless wall on the Massachusetts side. Kind of like shooting the moon at downtown. He replaced some historical building with his warehouse.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.