Theatre District – Saga (Temporarily) on Hold

I’m away from Worcester right now, though in a remarkably similar city.  It’s got beautiful downtown buildings, an active anti-panhandling campaign, and plenty of streets with no street signs.  It’s just like home — except for a distinct lack of hills and a skywalk from a hotel to a parking garage…

Because of that, I haven’t been able to write about so many of the things going on in the city (the parking study, the slots parlor, marijuana dispensaries) — but I hope to.  Soon.

When we last left the Theatre District, we’d gotten a master plan that had little changes from the draft.

As Tracy notes, Councilor Eddy held the item about the Theater District Master Plan last Tuesday.  (You can find more, including some quotes of my public comment, in Nick K’s column [$] from yesterday.)

I will just quote from Tracy’s blog about what could happen and what you should do if you care about the plan:

Councilor Eddy’s hold under privilege only lasts for a week. The Council has to do something with it tomorrow night. At this point, they can do four things:

  1. They can send the report on to Economic Development (the subcommittee that will hear this).
  2. They can hold the report for another week. That would take four councilors to vote in favor of the hold, at this point, as a personal privilege hold can only be done once per item per Councilor.
  3. They can send the report back to administration (as Nicole urged them to do last week) to incorporate public comment (or redo the process so that it begins from public comment).
  4. They can file the item, which is a nice way of saying, they can toss it out.
In order for anything unusual to happen, the Council needs to hear from the public. Thus, should you have any concerns about access to the parking lot (or, indeed, any other aspects of the plan), you should get in touch with the Council
Better yet, there is a time for public testimony at the beginning of every Council meeting: attend tomorrow night’s meeting at 7 pm at City Council and voice your concerns.
So — if you can, please contact the Council or speak at tomorrow night’s meeting.  Thanks!

Library Board Meeting Liveblog

Head Librarian’s Report for the past month

Jyoti, Tara will not be here; Jim is running late; Bill and Jabian are also not in attendance, but hopefully will be coming soon.

5:14 – the board is going paperless; each board member now has an iPad.

Mike and Ming are here from technical services to give demo of paperless board meeting.   There will be a library board page, they’ll be using Dropbox for the meeting packets.

(much iPadding; I will resume when the meeting gets to a different topic)

5:26 – President’s report – legislative breakfast – unsolicited support from legislators.

New Foundation executive director (Christina Andreoli) – Wei and Susan attended the foundation meeting (?) and discussed ideas to move forward.

Staff Recognition event went well.

Associate head librarian John Weedon joining on Monday.

(Bill has joined the meeting)

Susan is going over the work of various committees (Building and Grounds, Administration, Finance, Marketing, Community Service).  I’ll wait to type until the committee reports.

5:36 – Wei – update on AMH and RFID.  The bookstore is all done, the glass is done but the front display cases are still pending.  Next step: cafe.  Circulation is still in the front of the bookstore.  She negotiated with the winning company (3M) – will be in a month.  They need to comply with the tight timeline.  Conveyor belt – Chris is painting.  The room had water damage and basement had problems for many years — even before renovations.  New capital grant project to renovate the sidewalk on Salem Square.

First Friday of every month – staff mini-training.  March 8 – second staff development day, go through staff survey.

There will be a meet-and-greet for John Weedon – TBD.  Three other staff members have joined us.

1.5 positions need to be filled.

Discussion of increased digital literacy/promotion in the library.  Forty soldiers came this past Saturday to use computers.

Bill – asks about talking with corporations (like Staples) to have computers.  (In the context of need for more computers at the library.)

Committee reports —

Administration – Judy reports that board approved John, he accepted, will be starting soon.  Elizabeth Barnes to government documents.  Looked at board self-evaluation.  Head librarian evaluation – they had not done this before Mark.  The committee will look at format and see if that’s the best format to use or whether they want to do any changes.

Consulted with law department about limiting speech – David Moore gave them some rules to go by.  They will finalize at their next committee meeting and then present to the board.

District Task Force – City Ciuncil will have presentation on draft master plan tonight.  Judy will speak.  They will make the point that they like the plan, but continue to maintain safe, affordable, convenient parking.

Discussion of the master plan, how this didn’t reflect anything of what the library said to them, etc.

Judy attended off-street parking board, sent in advance Kevin’s piece on parking.  She continued to emphasize municpally-controlled, safe, affordable, convenient parking.

At Worcester State, there’s a student who will be doing a parking lot study.

Buildings and Grounds – Phyllis – will have meeting on Friday morning at 9am.

Community Service – Dante – presented reports from urban libraries center (?) – to prep for the strategic plan.  Strategic partnerships with various community organizations.  Branch libraries.  School libraries.  Library as engine for civic engagement.  Discussion of adding hours to have community groups meet (??)

Stephen Spohn (sp?) contracted to do three community meetings and three focus group meeting. Focus group – seniors, immigrants, parents.  Community groups – artists community, Friends, others that I missed.

This meeting will also be Friday at 9am.

Finance – Deb –  Feb 12 – need new server and LCD TV – approved at $5,800.

Also had discussion of support of executive director of foundation.  Have asked Wei to speak with Leslie Fish and Bob Sorrenti to speak to finance committee at April meeting.  Met with financial advisor today.

Marketing – Bill – waiting for time when members can meet.

Discussion of marketing ideas.

Friends liaison report – looking forward to bookstore/cafe expansion.  They received a grant to pay for museum passes.  If you have any suggestions, pass them along to Dante.

Dante formally requests review of attendance records and policy – make recommendations as needed.

Linear parks and collapsing streets

There’s an item on tonight’s City Council agenda about a linear park fror North Lake Avenue. [Telegram article – $]

Because I know nothing about the East Side (sorry!), I wanted to see if a reader knew what was going on with North Lake Ave.

Three or four years ago, there was a proposal to make that part of the street one-way (Wormtown Taxi covered this – parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7), part of the streeet had collapsed, and there’s still that annoying temporary traffic signal.

There was supposed to be a $75,000 parking study to see what could be done with traffic patterns (or justify the proposal for one-way) — did that ever happen?

Has anything been decided on what to do with the street there?

How does it feel to be ignored?

I compared the original draft of the Theatre District Master Plan to the final draft, and this is what I saw:

p. 3 (p. 14 of the pdf) – added third paragraph
p. 11 (p. 22 of the pdf) – slightly rewritten
p. 13 (p. 24 of the pdf) – added third paragraph
pp. 22-23 (pp. 33-34 of the pdf) – slightly rewritten
p.  42 (p. 53 of the pdf) – larger paragraph split into two smaller paragraphs – but no change in words

Yes, after lenghty and well-thought-out comments at meetings and in writing, from numerous members of the public, the changes constitute two paragraphs, a few words, and a carriage return.

Either that means that the WBDC, its consultants, and the city administration think that they can read the minds of the people of Worcester…or the wishes of the public were never the point.

I want the downtown, and this part of the downtown, to be successful.  Most of us do.

But this is a plan that relies on hoping that people will walk down alleys to nowhere and that would remove “undesirable” businesses.

It’s a plan that relies on an outside theater company (the MRT) — whose plans for Worcester are now on hold — without ever talking to existing theater groups (Worcester County Light Opera, Greater Worcester Opera, Worcester Shakespeare Company, etc.) to see what would bring them downtown.

There’s little in here about specific plans for the McGrath Lot, which leaves the potential for a hockey arena in the middle of downtown a distinct possibility — despite vocal opposition from the public.

The things in this plan that people like — food trucks, festivals, pop-up galleries — could already be happening now.  We don’t need a master plan for that.

We do need a master plan to guide us in creating more restaurants and housing, and in encouraging local entrepreneurs.

We need a master plan that doesn’t propose knocking down a couple of historical buildings to build something that does not add to the vibrancy of a street.

We need a master plan that does not revive our Brutalist heritage at 20 Franklin Street.

If these plans were something you were concerned about and commented on, then you should feel outraged that your comments were ignored.

There were a lot of good suggestions for the McGrath Lot, and none of them were included in the revised plan.  You should feel outraged that the plan does not say there will be no hockey arena, merely that the proposal was made and there was opposition — but there is no firm disavowal of that proposal in the master plan.

If you feel the process should have been better (as it was with the North Main strategy), or that the plan needs to include more of the comments from the public, you should:

  • Come to the City Council meeting on Tuesday night and comment on this item (4C).
  • Attend the Economic Development Subcommittee meeting where this plan will be discussed (TBD).
  • Contact members of the City Council and especially the Economic Development Subcommittee (Rushton, O’Brien, Russell).  (You can find all the contact information on the sidebar of Worcester Is Major.)

Theatre District Master Plan – Final Draft

The final draft of the Theatre District Master Plan will be presented to the City Council on Tuesday night at 7pm.  From there, it will be discussed further at an Economic Development Committee meeting.

I haven’t yet read the revised plan, but I will this weekend and will write up my notes.

Previously, I’d written a summary of the master plan, and I submitted notes on the plan to the city.  I also took notes at the community meeting that was held to discuss the plan.

In other Theatre District news, the Telegram reported a couple of days [$] ago that plans for the MRT in Worcester are on hold until the MRT finds a new executive director.  They had previously planned a trial run of a show at the Hanover in March.