MAIN STREET JOURNAL – A record crowd of about ninety local business and community leaders attended Marlborough Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) seventh annual Founders Reception held recently at the Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) headquarters in Marlborough. During the event, MEDC Executive Director Meredith Harris shared an extensive list of long-term strategic goals, which were formulated during a brainstorming session with city leaders back in May.
Goals for the downtown district that were noted by Harris included: attract modern amenities like brewpubs, wine bars, and coffee houses; host more family-friendly events and festivals; encourage a variety of unique uses for existing buildings; provide incentives for façade improvements and beautification; and engage and work closely with local landlords.
As an overall objective for the city, MEDC will be working to improve Marlborough’s brand and make the city more attractive to visitors, potential residents, and people who work at local companies.
In terms of development initiatives, MEDC is eyeing the Walker Building and the airport. Additionally, the organization hopes to spur revitalization of Marlborough’s French Hill area and Lincoln Street, and attract trendy retail establishments and restaurants for the city’s growing young population.
Harris stressed that, while the MEDC will work to modernize and develop Marlborough as a great destination for visitors and a preferred location for residents to live, work and play, the goal is to ultimately preserve and build on the city’s heritage.
“We like to call our development approach ‘tradition meets innovation,’” Harris said. “We know that the Marlborough community is very proud of the city’s history, and we definitely want to maintain that. At the same time, Marlborough is evolving. More and more innovative and technologically-advanced companies are moving to the city and the number of young people who live and work here is quickly growing. So, we are looking for the best ways to make this city a one-stop-shop for this next generation, without compromising the things that make Marlborough this uniquely big-city place with a small-town feel.”
In 2014, the MEDC led the downtown area rezoning efforts, which, among other things, allowed for brewpubs, music recording studios and other new building uses by right. This year, the MEDC led a successful campaign to attract Marlborough’s first microbrewery, Walden Woods Brewing, to the city’s downtown area, with an official opening expected early next year.
In July, the MEDC also launched an amenities funding program, as part of its existing collection of financial incentives, to help attract more amenity-type businesses to service the community. In August, the MEDC teamed up with Zagster, Inc., to launch Marlborough’s first bike-share program, offering residents and visitors an alternative way to get around and enjoy the city’s trails and parks.
“Marlborough prides itself on being both a business and a family friendly city, and the MEDC is the secret ingredient to keeping this balance,” said Mayor Arthur Vigeant. “The existence of the MEDC, which is the only economic development organization of its kind in Massachusetts, tells our business community that we are ready to support them and help them succeed in our city. And on the other hand, these same employers support and advance our residents by creating jobs, making infrastructure improvements, increasing property values and contributing to the advancement of our education system and the expansion of our other city services.”
The Founders Reception was held at the SOMA headquarters in an effort to introduce local leaders to the sports organization’s facility and ongoing work. Last year, SOMA moved one of its largest state events, the Tournament of Champions, to Marlborough. This year, close to 1,000 athletes and four hundred volunteers took part in the weekend-long tournament, which according SOMA Vice President of Advancement and Marketing, Nick Savarese, resulted in more than five hundred hotel room stays and one thousand local dinners.
Special Olympics athlete Beth Donahue was a guest speaker at the reception. “Support your local athlete,” Donahue said. “It’s our goal at Special Olympics to build awareness together. Support from people like you helps athletes to find their voice and sends the message that we should all focus on our abilities, not our disabilities.”
This article originally appeared here.