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Future of Route 9: Can We Achieve Growth Without Gridlock?

Commercial, residential and office growth is inevitable. How the towns along Route 9 address the development issues will shape the region.

Framingham, along with three other towns bisected by Route 9, is
poised to enter an era of evolutionary development that promises to bring
profound changes to the region, and that would likely include Northborough.

Representatives from the MetroWest Regional Collaborative and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council gave their view of what the commercial future might be along Route 9 during a public meeting Tuesday night inside the Dwight Hall Performing Arts Center at Framingham State University.

The public hearing, titled The Future of Route 9: Can We Achieve Growth Without Gridlock? focused on concepts that featured compact, mixed use developments along the highway that would be pedestrian and bicycle friendly while intelligently managing inevitable growth.

The hearing is the first of three that are intended to bring about a Route 9 MetroWest Smart Growth Plan for the section of Route 9 between I-495 to the west and I-95 (Route 128) to the east. Natick, Southborough and Wellesley are the other towns that are part of the Smart Growth Plan.

Framingham has begun thinking about ways to implement the changes required to manage and nurture the expected growth.

Some of the concepts that were brought forward at the public meeting, “Go hand-in-hand with the master plan,” said Gene Kennedy, Framingham’s assistant director of Community and Economic Development. The town’s new master plan is in its final stages and its release in imminent.

“There is going to be growth along Route 9,” said Bruce Leish, director of MetroWest Regional Collaborative.

Leish mentioned the region is currently in a commercial development lull and it is the ideal time to modify local zoning regulations to accommodate the precepts of the Smart Growth Plan.

“You don’t see a lot of vacancies along Route 9,” said Leish. He acknowledged that smart growth goals will not be achieved soon. “It will not happen now, but maybe 10 years from now.”

Randall Arendt, an expert on commercial corridor development, planning and design presented numerous examples of commercial development from across the country that either hit the mark or fell short.

Leish offered four areas in Framingham that might be considered potential Smart Growth commercial areas: the area surrounding 9/90 and the Technology Park; The intersection of Temple Street and Route 9; Framingham Center; and Prospect Street.

Other areas that have potential include the Golden Triangle on the Framingham and Natick border; Overbrook Drive, Wellesley; Fayville Village and Oak Hill Road, Southborough; and White’s Corner, Southborough.

Last Fall, the Collaborative received funds through the Sustainable Communities grant program to create a Smart Growth Plan for future development along the Route 9 corridor. The Route 9 Smart Growth Plan is expected to include alternative designs and land uses for several areas along the corridor. The plan will also offer computer visualizations, traffic analysis, design guidelines and zoning recommendations.

Leish presented a number of principles of Smart Growth as it would apply to Route 9:

  • Compact, walkable developments,
  • Mixed use,
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle friendly,
  • Public transportation,
  • Interconnectivity among parcels of land
  • Buildings closer to roads with parking behind the buildings,
  • Buildings at least two stories high,
  • Natural storm water management.

The next public hearing will most likely be in September, said Leish.



 



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