METRO WEST DAILY NEWS – A public forum Thursday night attracted a large crowd of residents to talk about the future of downtown area.
About 90 people turned out for the forum, nearly twice the number that organizers, the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation, had been expecting.
The agency, along with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, is undertaking a project to evaluate the city’s zoning regulations for the downtown area and make recommendations that could include the creation of an overlay district encouraging projects that include a mix of shops, businesses and housing.
During Thursday’s forum, held at the Masonic Hall on Newton Street, organizers hoped to gather comment from residents to help craft recommendations for zoning and regulations downtown.
“The goal of this evening is to discuss a vision of downtown Marlborough,” Cynthia Wall, an MAPC regional planner, told the crowd. “The vision is a road map. It’s a road map to help the city.”
Wall said that the success of a downtown is key to economic development and said Marlborough is well-poised for success, with opportunities for both housing and retail downtown.
Wall asked the audience to imagine returning to Marlborough in 20 years and envision the types of things they would like to see.
Mark Racicot, manager of the land use division a MAPC, asked the crowd to raise their hands and shout out things they would like to see downtown. The bevy of responses included arts and theater space, a local food market, a park, a bakery, outdoor seating for restaurants, housing, a fitness center, mural, nightlife locations, bike lanes, a veterans’ center and more. The audience later went to the front of the room to vote on the suggestions.
Planners also asked the crowd to look at a series of slides with pictures of buildings and asked them to vote with an electronic keypad on whether they believed them to be a good fit for either Main Street or Granger Boulevard.
The forum drew out several of the city officials and business leaders, but also several people who don’t regularly attend city meetings.
Toby and Heather McGuire, who are hoping to move back to the city this fall, said they came to hear about plans for downtown. The couple owns a condo that was destroyed in the six-alarm fire at the Lake Williams condo complex in 2012.
Heather McGuire said the two came to the meeting looking for “a little insight into what the future holds for Marlborough.” As a younger married couple, the two said that they and their friends are hopeful for a little more of a vibrant downtown.
“That’s what we want to hear,” she said. “That Marlborough is going to be better for the youth.”
Scott McCarthy, branch manager at the Digital Federal Credit Union on East Main Street, said he came to the meeting because he is interested in how downtown will develop. He also said that employees at the bank are eager for more things to do close to their work.
This article originally appeared here.