First steps to a better downtown in Marlborough

March 4, 2010 – MARLBOROUGH — The wheels are turning downtown as officials and business owners have started to act on ways to improve the area, such as better marketing and landscaping. About 40 people, including Mayor Nancy Stevens, city councilors, department heads and downtown business owners, discussed future downtown plans Tuesday at a meeting convened by the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation. The community could use a downtown association, said Marilyn Whalley, the corporation’s executive director.

“(The corporation is) only three people,” Whalley told the group at the Main Street Cafe. “We need you to participate to make this happen.”

Participants expressed interest in creating a downtown association that would work on long-term goals.

“You have a nice downtown,” Whalley said. “I’ve worked in some communities where it’s really kind of sad.”

But several issues have become clear. Parking led off Whalley’s list.

Since employees often park in front of their Main Street businesses, Whalley suggested starting a petition to stop this practice.

The downtown area has large municipal lots, but the city could improve the pathways to businesses, Whalley said. As Tufts University students pointed out in a recent downtown study, the pathways from Main Street to the municipal parking lot are poorly lit and uninviting.

A landscape and “streetscape” group, proposed at the meeting, could work with Public Works Commissioner Ronald LaFreniere on solutions for improving the pathways and landscaping.

But landscaping needs a plan and funding, LaFreniere said.

Whalley said that marketing is a relatively cheap way to improve the area. For example, the Tufts students suggested creating a logo using a well-known city landmark such as the John Brown Bell. The city could use the logo in marketing materials and signs.

Stephen Hitner, the owner of Metrowest Printing on Main Street, said he would be willing to donate time and resources for the marketing.

Whalley also pushed for a concept of exploring public art opportunities.

“Public art is important,” she said. “Artists bring a lot of people.”

Ideas included the use of store fronts as art work space and the Walker Building as a spot for an art museum.

The Marlborough Economic Development Corporation, formerly Marlborough 2010, plans to unveil a new Web site in April.

(Paul Crocetti can be reached at 508-490-7453 or
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