There’s no such thing as a perfect project, but the new Dillons store planned near 17th and Massachusetts streets will be a real asset for central city neighborhoods.
After working for several months with neighbors and city officials, Dillons officials will seek city approval tonight for a revised plan to replace the company’s aging store at 1740 Mass. Although neighbors may not be entirely satisfied with every detail of those plans, Dillons has made a laudable effort to address neighborhood concerns and revise the exterior design of the building to make the facade more attractive. City commissioners should support their efforts and allow the project to move forward.
There are aspects of the new Dillons design that obviously would have been different if the store had more space to work with, but Dillons officials deserve credit for being willing to figure out how to build a store with all the amenities of large suburban stores on the restrictive footprint available at the current site. The store they are planning will be a real investment in the community, providing a coffee shop, deli and other features that likely will make it a center of activity for people in many of Lawrence’s older neighborhoods.
All of those features take some space, and it’s true that the store will stretch closer to streets and neighbors to the west and east, but company officials have agreed to fencing and other measures to minimize the disruption. If the store causes traffic problems on New Hampshire or other nearby streets, company officials have agreed to share the cost of installing appropriate traffic calming structures.
It’s always easy to find fault with a new project, but, on balance, the new Dillons store planned at 1740 Mass. represents a tremendous investment in that area. It would have been easier for store officials to simply close the Massachusetts Street store and build a new store on a larger site elsewhere, but they chose instead to provide a store that will continue to be a solid retail anchor for the neighborhood.
The company has worked to address city and neighborhood concerns and come up with reasonable accommodations. The benefits of this store clearly outweigh any lingering concerns.