City of Somerville

Agenda Item
Work Completed
May 26, 2011 7:00 PM

That the Director of SPCD meet with the Magoun Square businesses and the Ward 5 Alderman to develop a plan for Magoun Square to stimulate business, ahead of the 2015 Green Line arrival.


Department:Clerk of CommitteesSponsors:Ward Five Alderman Sean T. O’Donovan
Category:Board CommunicationPurposes:Order

Official Text

That the Executive Director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development meet with the Magoun Square businesses and the Ward 5 Alderman to develop a plan for Magoun Square to stimulate business, all in anticipation of 2015 Green Line arrival.

Meeting History

Apr 8, 2010 7:00 PM Video Board of Aldermen Regular Meeting
Jun 3, 2010 6:00 PM  Housing and Community Development Committee Committee Meeting

Alderman O'Donovan said that it's difficult to get representation from all of Magoun Square's businesses at a committee meeting. Mr. May told the members that OSPCD is recommending economic development for facade improvements and that city would implement better policies for business improvement in the square, including having a consultant brought in to provide a fresh set of eyes to help business owners market their services. Additionally, OSPCD would like to implement Main Streets DPW to improve the greening in the square.

Attorney Privatera told the members that efforts to beautify the square are wonderful but pointed out that people aren't coming to the square because of the parking problems including the reduction of business parking spaces from 26 to 12 and the aggressive ticketing of Parking Control Officers. Business has dropped significantly, causing some businesses to vacate the area. Since CVS came to Magoun Square, 48 businesses have turned over. Proprieter Anthony Migliore, of Little Vinny's Restaurant, said that his business is off by 50% since the aggressive parking enforcement began in the square. He reported that one of his customers was ticketed twice for meter violations at 7:58 PM. Consequently, that customer has not returned to the Mr. Migliore's business - even though Mr. Migliore offered to pay for the tickets himself.

Alderman O'Donovan told the members that, in his opinion, the Traffic Task Force was a joke and that there is no relief in Magoun Square. Mr. Dan Maher noted that the original Traffic Task Force was going to eliminate 75% of the parking in Magoun Square. He told the members that he sent written correspondence to the city offering recommendations for parking, but none of his suggestions made it into the city's plan. In Medford, all parking on Main Street is for business and has a two hour limit. There is only one empty store front in that area and in Arlington's business area there are 6 empty store fronts. In comparison, there are 16 empty store fronts within a 1/2 mile radius of Magoun Square. Harvard Square averages 8 million customers per year for its businesses while Somerville's population shrinks 22% daily. From 5:00 to 8:00 PM, no parking spaces can be found in Magoun Square, yet business is still down. Joe Lynch, from the Magoun Square Neighborhood Association, asked that the Administration put a moratorium on extending the parking meters to 10:00 PM in Magoun Square.

Alderman Pero's motion that the Committee on Housing and Community Development convey a message from the Magoun Square Neighborhood Association to the Administration, asking that parking meter operation not be extended from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM when the parking kiosks are installed in Magoun Square, was approved.

Chairman Gewirtz said that the Green Line extension would improve the business in Magoun Square but Alderman O'Donovan pointed out that the extension isn't slated to be completed until 2014, and given the current economic climate, who knows if that date will remain accurate. Alderman O'Donovan said that the Administration isn't getting it when it comes to business in Magoun Square and added that some businesses are looking to sell because the Administration isn't being business friendly. Mr. May told the members that OSPCD is aware that businesses are hurting and can't wait until 2014, but he said that there isn't anything that he can do about the parking in the square. He did say, however, that a myriad of things could be done and that a meeting needed to be arranged between OSPCD and the businesses. Alderman O'Donovan suggested that the Traffic and Parking Department also be involved. Mr. May was asked about vacancies in the square and he responded by saying that OSPCD needs to walk the streets to determine why the vacancies exist. He mentioned that part of Magoun Square is in a low to moderate census track and that this might possibly allow HUD funds to be used for store front improvements. Additionally, business owners may qualify for CDBG funding for store front improvement if the business creates one job.

Alderman Pero's motion that the Executive Director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development provide a written report to the Committee on Housing and Community Development after the meeting of OSPCD, the Magoun Square business owners and the Ward Five Alderman, (which will be held to work on specific concerns relating to parking and other issues affecting the decline in business in Magoun Square), detailing the progress and proposed planning for improving the business climate in Magoun Square, was approved.

May 25, 2011 6:00 PM  Housing and Community Development Committee Committee Meeting

Representatives from OSPCD presented a written progress report and recommendations regarding the business climate in Magoun Square. The data indicates that rents in the square are low as a result of low investment in the area’s real estate. Many businesses catering to ethnic populations have chosen to operate in Magoun Square because of these lower rents and not because their customer base is there.

Several factors make it harder for businesses in Magoun Square to compete with other businesses in the city’s other square. Among the contributing factors are a lack of parking, fewer destination businesses and a much smaller number of office and service job employees working in Magoun Square as compared to Ball Square or Winter Hill.

Several residents and business owners spoke on the issue expressing their dedication to the square and stated that there is a disconnect between residents and businesses, as many of the square’s businesses don't cater to the area's residents. More people need to be brought into the square. It was stated that people commute through the square, yet some actually don't know it exists.

Alderman Gewirtz suggested creating a resident/business initiative, similar to the one operating in Davis Square, to help in revitalizing Magoun Square and went on to point out that businesses could be helped by getting cars to turn over in parking spaces. It was suggested by some present that although turning over spaces during short cycles might be helpful, it would hurt destination businesses.

Mr. Mackey told the members that business owner/occupants and long term renters are fully vested in their businesses, therefore it's important to engage those individuals in efforts to revitalize the square. Mr. Mackey cautioned that market dynamics often come into play are very difficult, if not impossible, to counter. He also stated that the daytime economy is different than night-time economy and he believes that the focus should be on night life. Mr. Mackey also urged that the parking issues be addressed head-on.

Mr. May stated that there would be forums and vehicles for residents to weigh in on this matter in the future. Chairman O’Donovan intends to have another meeting, in Magoun Square, during the daytime with business owners and residents invited to participate. Flyers will be distributed in the neighborhood when the details are set.

May 26, 2011 7:00 PM Video Board of Aldermen Regular Meeting