As Watertown looks at how to plan for the future with the Comprehensive Plan update, businesspeople shared a number of concerns and wishes for how the City could help them thrive.
More than 50 people gathered at Mount Auburn Cemetery’s Bigelow Chapel Wednesday night to discuss the future of business in Watertown in an event hosted by the Watertown Business Coalition.
Steve Kearney from Stantec, the City of Watertown’s Comprehensive Plan consultants, asked people what they would like the see to help businesses in the future. Most of the attendees represented smaller businesses in town.
East End City Councilor Nicole Gardner said she heard a number of things from Coolidge Square businesses at a coffee she recently held. They want to make sure that parking is preserved, and worried that the Mt. Auburn Street renovation would not only reduce parking, but also make it harder to get deliveries because trucks unload on the street.
People also wanted to preserve the unique character of East Watertown’s business district, she said.
Curtis Whitney, of JM Whitney Insurance, echoed the need for parking for small businesses in Coolidge Square, Watertown Square and other areas. He also said he believes preserving the Arsenal Street and Pleasant Street corridors as areas that are attractive for larger businesses is important to have a strong City economy.
Others said transportation must be improved for Watertown’s businesses, so that they can attract customers from in and outside of town.
Providing housing that people can afford is another priority raised at the meeting.
Resident Merle Kummer said she would like to see the life science companies coming to the City hire local residents and find ways to encourage that.
Kearney said that people can put in their suggestions for the Comprehensive Plan through the virtual workshop. See it by clicking here.
Parking availability is key to keeping our small businesses competitive. We have limited parking on Main St. and Mt. Auburn St. and what we have needs to be kept. We have meters everywhere while Waltham provides up to 2 hours free for Moody St. businesses. They also have a number of small parking lots. That makes them much more competitive for people to go there and especially for those who often can’t walk long distances to find parking due to age or physical limitations. Newton has a small parking lot that allows free parking for 3 hours off of Watertown St. and the Post Office and all the restaurants and businesses seem to be much more stable there. In bad weather people aren’t inclined to have to stop and shop when they can’t find convenient parking, and in our area we all know we have long winters. Green ideas are good for some things, but if we want green (money) coming into Watertown, let’s be considerate of the people who want to support our local businesses.
This Watertown Business Coalition event was excellent and more business owners and leaders across the city of Watertown should join the coalition to help strengthen the voice of small business in this evolving, changing climate in the city. Get involved by sharing your comments and opinions of the Watertown Comprehensive Plan immediately. Make sure you contribute to positive change and help manage increasing density by making your voice heard.
I’d like to work off of Merle Kummer’s comments. How about developing a training program in Watertown for Watertown residents that’s specific to the labs and at least partially supported monetarily by the labs, for lab technicians, etc. That would give the labs a local workforce and give mostly non-college bound WHS graduates and others an opportunity to make a decent (non minimum wage) income?