The morning of April 5th marked the beginning of the much anticipated renewal of Magoun Square along with (finally) validating those obnoxious green signs at the beginning and in the heart of the square announcing the renovation. One would think that I, both a resident and daughter of a former Magoun Square business owner, would be relieved to see the State and City walk the walk after talking the talk for so long, but I must admit that I am worried.
The over $3 million will be spent on traffic lights, sidewalks, landscaping and pedestrian furniture, but not on a solid business plan to attract new storefronts to a square that will become widely and easily accessible by non-residents if the Greenline Extension becomes a reality in 2014-2015. At the April 8th Board of Alderman meeting, Ward 5 Alderman Sean O’Donovan outlined an approach to such a plan by tackling specific issues including parking regulations, publicizing parking data, focusing on monthly ticket revenue trends and patterns, and ending the constant connection of Davis Square and Magoun Square with regards to parking need and potential parking revenue gain. Simply said, O’Donovan is looking to make Magoun Square welcoming and business friendly and not another place in Somerville where you get a $40 ticket added to your tab.
One could argue that this renewal, in itself, could attract businesses with its sparkling, white sidewalks and pretty yellow traffic lights and that you need to spend a little money to make a little money. However, I am concerned with the business loss that the insult of construction with the added injury of a parking ticket could have on the current business owners…current business owners who have tirelessly pushed for building business strength in Magoun Square. Dan Maher of Dan Maher Stained Glass along with Greg Coughlin owner of Olde Magoun’s Saloon (just to name a couple) have unselfishly advocated for business-friendly solutions to some of the square’s toughest issues. I worry, however, how long they will be able to hold on to their stake in my beloved square before they, or any other business owner for that matter, consider an alternate location that will benefit and not burden them financially.
To put it bluntly, I love the idea of brick paver crosswalks, but they mean nothing if visitors are not walking on them drifting from one store front to another. New traffic lights are great, but not if they give the green light for drivers to motor right through leaving Magoun Square in their rearview mirrors. Empty bike racks and benches are not what life-long and newly implanted residents deserve after working hard to afford the homes they reside in.
I implore all readers of this statement to patronize the amazing and culturally diverse businesses of Magoun Square…a square that boasts the amazing Italian eatery of Lil’ Vinny’s, Somerville’s biggest slice of pizza at Pini’s and the billiards lover’s heaven of On The Hill Tavern.
I also encourage entrepreneurs to see the amazing potential of this diamond-in-the rough square that WILL pose serious competition to the always vibrant Davis Square and Ball Square if we all work together to really revitalize this piece of Somerville!
Courtney O’Keefe of Ward5Online.Com