I just can’t believe that Framingham is poised to deny the McDonald’s permit for Route 9 on the Southboro line.
You know, for years Rick has been talking about economic development inFramingham, and touting the merits of biotech, compounding pharmacies notwithstanding. The point that Rick misses is that economic development is a two prong issue. First, it provides flashy new buildings. But of equal import, it has to be in the right place to stimulate economic development. Biotech buildings on New York Avenue don’t create jobs as much as they shuffle them around. And biotech jobs tucked away on New York Avenue doesn’t create street life.
I used to have my office on 1661 Worcester Road, back in the old days. If you wanted a cup of coffee or a donut, you had to risk your life crossing Route 9. I would occasionally take clients to Tin Alley Grill or whatever that thing was called. We picked that site for our office because many of my clients came from out of town and were staying at the hotel. Increasingly, they complained that there was nothing to do the moment they walked out of the hotel. So I moved my office to another site in Framingham. Once again, if I wanted to do the death dash across Route 30, there were limited food options amongst the gas stations and traffic. But my new office was in close proximity to a hotel and to transport to the airport. But in the past four years, that site went into a death spiral, as Framingham denied permit after permit for anything that would bring life to our little corner. When Bickford’s closed, my clients threw up their hands, and said that the location was as bad as the other.
I have just moved my physical office in Massachusetts, such as I have one, to an urban village outside of Framingham. Tough choice to leave Framingham, but no choice. Framingham increasingly has a reputation as an anti-business community, with little or no considered plan for development. Our new bricks and mortar office is flex space in a mill building. I walk out my door to restaurants, useful shops (dry cleaners, small supermarket, barber shop, hardware store, liquor store). There are a variety of people here, in all walks of life and employment. Commuter rail is across the street. My commute has gone from a 45 minute drive through increasingly worsening traffic to a pleasant 20 minute walk. Yes, walk. And while we don’t have a Bickford’s here, we have everything else you could possibly want. I also have better infrastructure all around. This is new urbanism at its best.
Back to McDonalds. The Route 9 gateway to Framingham is the worst example of blight in MetroWest. A number of years ago, I proposed carving “Welcome to Framingham-Heart of Metrowest” on the new overpass over Route 9, marking the gateway to the town. Today, you know you’ve left Southboro and entered Framingham because the neighborhood quality plummets. I don’t like McDonalds, and I don’t go there. But it is an anchor. A start. Something. A place people who work in the area could walk through. Probably the first step in redeveloping the area. Tax dollars. I made a last ditch analysis of buying the Rugg Gates House and moving the house to the site of Tin Alley Grill and then adding some additional development behind it. When I spoke to banks and other developers, I confirmed what I sort of knew–no one wants to develop anything in that area. Regardless of Rick’s treasured bio tech and Staples and Bose, this area is still just a suburban office park surrounded by highways and oceans of cars. Something has to give, and McDonald’s wants to take the first step.
Come on Framingham, grab for the ring.