Input Requested

I know I’ve asked for post ideas before, and I haven’t followed up on any of the ideas.  (To recap, “Lost Villages of Worcester” won, and I’ve been doing intermittent research for that.  Emily wanted me to discuss making the city more walkable, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading on urban design and walkability, which is, of course, belied by my lack of posting on the subject.  Someone — probably my husband — recommended an ‘in-depth exploration of area strip clubs,’ which I will leave for another blogger to tackle.)

Along with dog parks, we’d been discussing how to get citizens more involved in the city.  T-traveler recommended that the virtual community pick two or three ideas, and prioritize one to really push/work with city government to address.

There are no existing government-sanctioned vehicles for this kind of discussion, but I think this might be an experiment worth pursuing.  Here’s how we’ll do it:

1) In the comments section of this post, leave one or more ideas you’d like to see the government work on with the help of citizens.  They could be tech-focused (i.e., create a City of Worcester suggestion website similar to Manor Labs).  They could be variations on something you heard a city councilor talk about (i.e., at the last City Council meeting, Kate Toomey talked about colleges paying students to work at the public library via workstudy; what if we approached colleges with early childhood education programs and asked if students would be interested in volunteering to do some storytimes?).  They could be small (fix the swings in Elm Park) or large (pick a park a year for a volunteer team to improve). 

2)  On Tuesday, I’ll compile the ideas and put up a poll (because the real point of all this is for me to have another poll; I should just apply to work for the T&G web team).  We’ll give people a couple of days to vote.

3)  A blue-ribbon panel (me and my cats) will select an idea from the top three vote-getters for us to pursue as a virtual community.  (I have no idea what that will entail, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.)

I look forward to reading your ideas!

19 thoughts on “Input Requested

  1. Jason F says:

    1) I do support the dog park idea, as I have a dog and would love to have a place for her to run off leash and meet other dogs.

    2) Bike Lanes! The city could be more walkable, or it could be more bikeable. There’s not too many bikers besides us hardcore types who don’t mind riding with cars, but bike lanes on Park Ave and Main St would be a lot helpful in getting more people out there and encouraging less traffic.

    3) Well I just noticed that the city actually does webcast the meetings, I may have to watch these more often. A better updated RSS/blog would be great too to keep people notified with meeting notices/agendas. The News and Announcements page on the city’s website has only been updated 3 times this year!

  2. zed says:

    Start a petition drive to change the city charter to strong mayor.

  3. Brian Goslow says:

    I’ve got a list of the lost villages if you need it …

  4. Jim May says:

    The inspiration for my “Re-Imagining Worcester” series in that great alternative weekly, In City Times, came from –among other things–reconnecting the old streets that form the crux of the downtown area, the area I define as roughly Holy Cross/290 north to Lincoln Sq/Gateway Park.

    A Geographic Determinist would say that our landscape is our destiny. But for most of the last 100 years we have building and building over the paths trod for centuries by those before us to the point that we have lost our origins. And that partly explains why putting together a successful urban design in an “organic” urban growth plan is so vexing.

    For 3/4 of Worcester’s history, Worcester was a walking city. Pedestrianism ruled. In the first decade of the last century, the city held 210,000 individuals. I marvelled 10 years ago when I saw a picture from that era of Lincoln Square looking from the old courthouse over to Belmont Street/Morgan Construction. I couldn’t believe how dense the people were packed in back then!

    The automobile changed things. At first it was housing, then roads and then superhighways and we lost the community of a dense urban center.

    In the interest of urban renewal, Worcester razed the area of Front Street and demolished the brick and granite fronts we would kill for today. We deleted the ability for people to walk safey from Water Street to Shrewsbury Street or from Pleasant Street to, say Green Street.

    It may be hard to think of Water Street as actually having “water” anywhere it, but it did. last year my dad told me that the area where Kenmore Diner/Grafton Street is today once held a massive horse stable. That was ack when delivery men worked out of that area. But it really goes back to when a water source (a river, a canal maybe??) existed there.

    I believe that with the massive land turnover with CSX and with what to do to bring the Upper Blackstone sewer plant up to code and just the plain recognition that we can easily build Worcester into a walkable urban center once again, we can retain the high income young people into an exciting urban core.

    A good place to start is to go back 50, then 100 years ago and look at the street maps. Most of the street were, of course the pedestrian centers. The work to be done by us, this generation, is to highlight the old and bring back what we can.

    One of the things that killed–outright killed–the creaticvity that is required is that previous generations fell in love with automobile culture. After we put the railroad practically on top of the old watering hile in the mid1800s, we place i290 over it in the mid 20th century.

    It isn’t hard for me to imagine a central Garden today in the area behind city hall outward to Worcester Ctr Blvd, a water feature as imagined in a Canal District or even a faux canal to be the centerpiece of an urban garden landscape.

    it isn’t hard for me to see moving sidewalk or even an elevated train in the down town area extending from Hol;y Cross to Gateway park either.

    It isn’t hard for me to see designated “greenpaths” that RE-connect Holy Cross to Millbury Street or to a woodland park at Middle River either.

    I believe a pedestrian-friendly design will be necessary to build a dense core residential space in the large downtown area. I believe that a pedestrian-friendly “path” from Holy Cross and Clark University to an core “cool zone” like Kelley Square (“Bohemia on the Blackstone”) will go a long way to reconnecting Worcester’s college to the greater Worcester community.

  5. Hannah says:

    I agree with that Worcester should be more walkable. Although I have a car, I prefer to walk around the city. However, many of the sidewalks have made me trip, and during the winter, I’ve had to walk on the street. If there is any way I can help, Nicole et al, let me know!

  6. Emily says:

    I love that people are thinking about how to make the city more walkable. I particularly would like to see a pathway to get from the College Hill neighborhood to other parts of the city without risking life and limb!

    I also think the city of Worcester could take a bigger role in getting folks involved in volunteer work. I know that the United Way has a good database of volunteer opportunities– I would love to see that highlighted on the city website and have the city take a more active role in promoting the concept of volunteerism.

  7. Ken says:

    I think having a bike accessible/walkable city is a fantastic idea, but if Worcester spent time, money, and effort into sidewalks and such would it just be another “create it and they will come” failure similar to the train station.

    I live 3 blocks from city hall, but I work outside of Worcester. I don’t often get a chance to see how crowded the streets are during weekdays. But during the weekend it is a pitiful ghost town. Maybe if there was more of a draw to the downtown area walkways would make sense.

    The Commons are underutilized and being overshadowed by empty concrete buildings (ie the Outlets) just makes downtown a sad place to visit. I’d propose Worcester finally get the ball rolling on tearing down the outlets and at the same time try to hold more community events on the common. (stArt on the street, ice cream festival, Shakespeare in the park, whatever).

    I was extremely unhappy with the decision to tear up the Common to put in an “as yet to be used” ice rink. The poor planning and continued ridiculousness of chaining up the tables and chairs so no one can use the area drives me insane. I’m still unsure who in city hall ok’d that plan. They should be voted out… I have a hard time believing that the city planners could do well with future planning of a walkable city.

    So unchain the tables, be welcoming to events, tear down the mall, and plan urban walkways, extend the bike trail to downtown. And If the city is so concerned with theft rather than allow its citizens to enjoy public space, then install cameras or get bike or beat police to patrol that area more often. What happened to the police outpost that was there?

    • t-traveler says:

      getting the tables unchained seems do-able

    • Nicole says:

      They’ll once again be having concerts on the Common during lunchtime, but I think what I’m hearing from you (and what I’ve certainly heard in the past from others) is that many of the events are not really directed towards bringing to the Common during non-weekday/daylight times; so, we’re not really bringing people in on the weekends, and we’re not doing anything for those who live downtown (and don’t also work downtown).

      We will once again have Shakespeare in Green Hill Park. I read an article in the Globe about juvenile offenders who, as part of their sentence, perform a Shakespeare play; I couldn’t help but think that the people of Worcester might appreciate similar performances on the Common.

      (Or that an in-depth study of a play with evening performances in August might be a nice way to do a summer reading project.)

      • Ken says:

        I spoke with a friend of mine in the DPW and he commented that the tables are unchained for the most part during the week, and limited on weekends. He had mentioned that the city would have to pay overtime for someone to lock/unlock them or patrol the area, and that was not in the city’s financial interest.

        And apparently the guy who made the call to install the useless ice skating rink no longer works for the city.

        • t-traveler says:

          alot of administrators signed off on the ice rink, dont think we can blame it on “the guy who made the call”

        • t-traveler says:

          the library is open on Saturday, cant one of their custodians lock and unlock the tables?

  8. t-traveler says:

    what about merging Green Hill Park Farm with Ecotarium animal collection or putting them under joint management with Tufts involved

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