No, No, A Thousand Times No

I attended part of the library board meeting today and saw some of the WBDC presentation of plans for the Theater District (and especially the McGrath parking lot).

I must have misread or misunderstood the plans, but here is what was presented for the McGrath site:

  • An indoor hockey rink along Salem Street, across Library Lane from the library entrance
  • Another indoor hockey rink between the first rink and McGrath Boulevard, on a diagonal
  • A slightly widened (for drop-offs to the hockey rinks) and rerouted Library Lane
  • Limited parking along the side of the library that faces the YWCA (similar to what currently exists)
  • A small-ish lot close to the YWCA

The parking garage along the T&G building is part of the proposal, but there were no concrete or easy ways to direct pedestrians from that garage to the library.

Why hockey rinks?

The WBDC’s response was that they were told that some colleges had been thinking of putting in hockey rinks, but the space on campuses was limited and constructing hockey rinks was expensive.  So this plan includes a practice rink and a rink for games.

(The Sharks also have practice space in Marlboro and would love space closer to Worcester.)

We’ve also been trying to attract college students to downtown and this would be a way to bring them downtown (according to the WBDC).

I am not convinced that hockey would be enough of a draw to bring lots of college students to come downtown.  Sure, those kids might come to play or practice, but after a couple of hours on the ice, would they want to spend more time downtown or just go back to the dorm and take a long shower?  (It also wouldn’t attract a LOT of college students.)

The WBDC also said that there was a potential for others to use the rinks, and that a parent who drops off a child to the hockey rink could then have lunch/use the library/shop downtown while waiting for the practice to finish.

But high school students usually practice hockey early in the morning (5-8am) due to the cost of ice time, so unless we were going to drastically expand library hours, parents/siblings/players couldn’t really use the library — or frequent any local business except for a convenience store.

Won’t the hockey players take up the limited parking close to the YWCA?

According to the presentation, hockey players could be dropped off at the rink and then would be directed to park at the T&G lot.

But if we’re trying to attract college students, why would they want to park at the T&G lot and lug their heavy equipment a few blocks?

So what would Salem Street look like?

A hockey rink and library on one side, and the Mayo Building on the other side.

I can just see pedestrians flocking there for a daily dose of beige and off-white with a decided lack of foot-traffic-level business.

It would be great if we could see a pedestrian path between Portland and Salem, but that would mean cutting through a building.

What does this do for the library?

Not much, as far as I can tell.

The Library Lane entrance would face a hockey rink building.

Patrons and staff would have fewer close parking spaces.

I didn’t see any space in the plan for eventual expansion of the library.  This is something I think we’d need in the next 10-15 years — the meeting room space is in demand, the teenagers do not have enough space in their small area, etc.  We need more space in that building.  And we need to plan accordingly.

Hockey, huh?

I have a real philosophical problem with putting in two hockey rinks across the street from the library.  Hockey is an expensive sport, and one that requires a certain privilege.  I do not feel comfortable placing something so exclusionary (because of the cost of equipment and ice time, because the intention is to be used mostly by college students and professional athletes) across from a great symbol of democracy and equality.

And — as was mentioned at the board meeting — we can’t afford to rebuild pools in poor neighborhoods, but we’d be able to find money to build two indoor rinks for the most expensive sport this side of polo?  No.  I am sorry.  But no.

I like that this plan is trying to think creatively about using a (perhaps-underused, definitely ugly) urban space, and that there’s though to bringing college students into downtown.

But that is all I can like.

One of the things that makes great urban spaces is that sense of democracy.  When I think of a place like the Common/Frog Pond/Public Garden area in Boston, part of what makes it so appealing is that it brings together all sorts of people — young and old, rich and poor — with all sorts of backgrounds and interests.

Kind of like the public library.

I do not see how putting together a complex with such a narrow interest will further the goal of encouraging the arts or a greater sense of urban community.

It certainly will not further the mission of the library.

This will be discussed further in future library board meetings.

I will keep you all informed about when this will be discussed.

But — if you feel as I do — you need to start letting library board members and elected officials know now that the solution to the mistakes of urban renewal is not sticking a couple of hockey rinks in a parking lot.

12 thoughts on “No, No, A Thousand Times No

  1. Walter Crockett says:

    This is a terrible idea.

  2. matt says:

    I don’t think that leaving the city to build hockey rinks partly as a sop to the local colleges that don’t have the funds to build one makes much sense. Clark has an enormous pair of facilities already for other sports. Two hockey rinks downtown vs. one library doesn’t make much sense. All you can do on a rink is skate; they’re not much good for other purposes, while the library serves a number of purposes that support not only the missions of the colleges, but almost every literate citizen in the city. So, yea, here’s your 1001st “no.”

    • Nicole says:

      I neglected to mention that the WBDC would then own the site, including the parking — a site that is now owned by all of us in common as residents of the city.

      But — we were told — they’re a non-profit, so they can’t make a profit on the parking.

      Doesn’t that make you feel better?

  3. Angela says:

    Silly, silly, silly idea. Did I say it was silly? Want to build a hockey rink? Add an adjoining building to the current Buffone Rink on Lake Ave. The city owns the entire parcel of land along Lake Ave. from Nonquit St. to Bigelow-Davis Pkwy (Hamilton St.) and back to Coburn Ave. Plenty of parking, infrastructure in place, captive audience built in. That rink is very busy and would likely benefit from a second rink (ability to hold tournaments greatly expands with a second or third rink). Downtown and next to the library. Dumb, dumb, dumb. So I guess this is a ”no” from me!

    • Joe says:

      Angela, the current rink and parking lot was carved out of Lake park, which has lost a lot of open space since it was created. Tivnan field and Quinsigamond State Park were also “taken” from the city parkland. it’s great, wooded open space with some nice walking and mountain biking trails.

      There’s not a lot of City-owned open/undeveloped space on the East Side of the city. There are a few significant parcels, such as Crow Hill, but it’s really less than it seems because there is a large amount of undeveloped land abutting these areas that is privately owned.

      I think developing parkland and open space is shortsighted, considering there is a lot of previously developed land that is currently “underdeveloped”. Right on Lake Ave. nearby is the dirt “parking lot” for the Marine Corps League or the former Italian-American Club across the street.
      There are even more underused spaces downtown. Close to the DCU, there is the entire block behind the Palladium that is surface parking. Next to the parking garage is Honey Farms/EB Lens with a giant (mostly unused) parking lot. Next to that is the lot for the buildings on Union Street. South/Southeast of the library there’s a large lot with only one building (Curry Printers) on the block bounded by Hermon/Beacon/Southbridge/Madison. Next to that is the Crystal Palace. (knock that down, please) Just across the tracks from the library lot are empty lots bounded by Gold/Assonet/Washington. Heck, Wyman-Gordon is right there!
      However, they’re all privately owned.

      The worst thing is that the WBDC wants the City wants to give land away for a project that couldn’t get off the ground if it wasn’t for that. Giving it away to them, a private corporation.

      As far as the library lot goes, the Main Library has two things going for it: It’s close to public transportation for those who don’t have cars and convenient parking for those who do. since only 2 satellite branches exist now, parking is essential for the library’s programs to continue to flourish. When my kids were younger, I was down there 2-3 times a week with two toddlers and a baby in a carseat. If the parking was not so convenient, I would have taken them to programs in Shrewsbury or Auburn.

      Losing the adjacent parking would be a huge problem for the library’s vitality.

  4. Angela says:

    Can you provide a list of the library board members who should be contacted?

    • Tracy Novick says:

      Kevin Dowd President
      Susan Gately Vice-President
      Jyoti Datta Treasurer
      Deborah Packard Secretary
      Donna J. McGrath
      Tara Young
      William S. Coleman III
      Jabian Gutierrez
      Dante Comparetto
      Phyllis Harrington
      Judy Finkel
      James Kersten

      The library website they can be reached at the library’s address, which is 3 Salem Square, 01608.
      And I’d recommend sending comments to the city council, as well.

  5. Joe says:

    Nicole, does the library have any control over this lot? I know it’s called “The Library Lot”, but isn’t it just another City-owned Parking lot?

  6. Sean says:

    Well, said! You beat me to the post, and said it more eloquently than I could. After seeing the WBDC’s new advertising on the YWCA, I started to wonder when the PR campaign would begin for more privatization of public resources.

    Municipal lots should not be turned over for private ‘non-profits’ when we have plenty of abandoned properties across the city owned by the usual suspects.

  7. […] at Pizzeria Uno?”[7:55] 508 awards Jose Canseco the Key to the City.[9:45] How about we tear out the library parking lot for a hockey stadium?[20:56] Mike reads the Worcester Business Development Corporation’s “about” […]

  8. […] voted for the food truck crackdown picket this event?[9:42] Counter-proposals are being floated for redeveloping the Library parking lot.[10:19] There’s an art exhibit at the Hanover Theater.[11:25] […]

  9. […] may recall that I wrote about their plans in June.  Since then, there’s been a lack of coverage (both in other media and on this blog) about […]

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