Mayor Martin Walsh boosted funding for the city’s existing Main Streets program last year – with each of the city’s 20 designated districts getting a $75,000 boost. It was a signal that Walsh’s administration is committed to supporting one of his predecessor’s signature initiatives.
That’s a good thing. By and large, the program has worked well across the city. The 20 existing districts include several in Dorchester: Fields Corner, Four Corners, Greater Grove Hall, St Mark’s Area, and Uphams Corner. Mattapan Square won a Main Streets designation in the last years of the Menino administration.
Main Streets has been a better fit in some places than in others. A district that was launched in Codman Square in the early ‘90s fizzled out after a few years. Bowdoin-Geneva has struggled to keep its Main Streets running at times. The late mayor resisted bringing a Main Streets to Fields Corner for years because, he argued, there were too many competing civic interests – and not enough cohesion – in that business district. Now that it has one, the Fields Corner business district has benefited from having a full-time coordinator helping to give direction and streamline the flow of city resources to the neighborhood.
The city has not explicitly stated that it is looking to add new Main Streets districts. But if it does entertain such an expansion, Dorchester’s Adams Village is an excellent candidate. As outlined in a story in last week’s Reporter, parts of the village are outdated in appearance. And while the emergence of new property owners is an encouraging step, the village could use more in the way of directed city services to help spruce things up.
It is true that businesses in Adams Village can, and have, tapped into city programs that help with things like facade improvements. You don’t have to be in a Main Streets district to get Main Streets-level help. But there is currently a void in the village’s business district with the absence of the now-defunct merchant’s association. Having a full-time Main Streets director – and an active board of directors – to help build momentum and coordination for things like clean-ups, storefront improvements, and promotional events would be a big help at this prominent gateway to the city of Boston. If it were to gain a Main Streets designation, it might make sense to include Gallivan Boulevard to Neponset Circle within its boundaries to help integrate the businesses that are on that busy stretch of the rodeway.
If Adams Village’s civic and business leaders are so inclined, it is likely that they will find a receptive audience at the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development, which oversees the Main Streets program. At the very least, the process of putting together a bid for a Main Streets would be a good exercise in organizing and planning. Neighbors and select business owners have already shown a strong interest in calling for change and modernizations. A Facebook-based organization – RAVE – helps to raise funds for plantings while providing bodies for seasonal clean-ups.
Bottom line: Adams Village could use a strong new civic voice to help bring about some improvements that otherwise might be slow to come. We hope that property owners, activists, and their elected officials will give the idea further thought.