photo L-R: Principal Debra Lucey; Steven Winslow Community Development; Val Gilman Ward 4 City Councilor
Thirty people came together in the beautiful library at O’Maley for a public meeting concerning safer walking on nearby streets. The meeting was presented by Ward 4 Councilor Val Gilman and Mayor Romeo Theken. Read prior post with announcement details. Steve Winslow from Community Development gave a presentation before a crowd of residents, mostly from the neighborhood with a smattering of O’Maley parents. O’Maley’s terrific Principal, Debra Lucey, participated.
Winslow explained that he and Principal Lucey worked on the crux of the issues back in 2012 through a “Safe Routes to School” planning study. Complete Streets and Safe Routes to School are implemented by MassDOT (Massachusetts Department of Transportation). Principal Lucey, a Lanesville resident, drives to school via Reynard Street, arguably the route most discussed as being problematic at this particular meeting. People are driving too fast on Cherry Street.
Nothing is final and the discussion was open. Attendees were encouraged to put a sticker by projects they wanted to prioritize and/or take off the table. What three would you tick?
Lucey and her husband relocated to Gloucester because of the O’Maley job and a sweet connection with Gloucester. She and her husband had their first date here: Good Harbor Beach and dinner at the Rudder!
Seeing double? Yes, you’re supposed to. The Sawyer Free Library addition was designed to mirror Cape Ann Museum as a balanced and nuanced architectural symmetry in deference to City Hall, and catalyst for a graceful center.
Sawyer Free Library has announced a public meeting January 11th for discussions of a new building. (See the flyer at the end of this post.)
City Hall may have some upcoming construction on the Dale Avenue side as well.
Both projects are largely in the name of accessibility of a physical nature. Can they be cost effective, worthy of our history and culture, protect our significant buildings, and address current and future needs? The following are some of the issues, local coverage, links to resources, and archival material for your interest.
HANDICAP PARKING SPACES BY CITY HALL- Do we have enough?
Although there are several new handicap parking spaces along Dale Avenue by City Hall, carving out the landscape on the left for more spots is in the cards because of grant money. Why? Several people told me that Dale Avenue parking spaces are hazardous for anyone exiting on the street. Although I do not want to minimize any pressing needs, I still ask, “Really?” Have we become so car dependent we would rather a thoroughfare here than the elegant streetscape we have (once a tree lined walk from the train station.) I was also told that it will increase visitation counts. It is an unfair advantage that historic sites with access to more funding (Monticello, Smithsonian, Colonial Williamsburg, and more) are better equipped to face these seemingly no-win situations. But there are creative retrofitting options for Gloucester, too. Universal design is about balance, not chasing funding sources at the expense of preservation and beauty, nor backwards planning.
NEW LIBRARY 2016. And 1973.
Before the current 2015-16 library outreach, the library hosted extensive visioning sessions throughout 2013. I went to a couple, and I was invited to take part in a focus group (on schools and the library.) A completely new library and jettisoning of the historic Saunders library building was not an expressed community value. What were some common discussion points? A strategy for digitization of historic archives and newspapers, more staff, more hours of operation (Sundays), better bathrooms, parking issues, air conditioning, electrical work, maintenance, security, maximizing technology/ content access with schools, ditto Cape Ann TV, and attendance (see this great video from Lisa Smith by kids for kids ) were some goals that were mentioned.
So it was a surprise to see the unveiling of new architectural renderings that did not showcase the Saunders house. It’s like the White House not featuring the White House. I think the Saunders house should be key and central to any building overhaul, not tossed aside. Providing universal access should preserve the intended awe factors if there are any, FOR EVERYBODY–such as the architectural details, proportion, welcoming entrance and unique heritage of a historic building. In this proposal, with Saunders severed there is zero physical access to the main event. What a missed opportunity. And for a library. What do you think?
Today’s paper mentioned that the Saunders house could be used for other purposes instead of the library. Why can’t that be the case and the library maintain its #1 asset? The downtown cultural district (which is not going forward in the same capacity) and other organizations could use the library meeting spaces. Do we really need to conjure up another stand alone endeavor?
Back in 1973, the Trustees of the Library began a fund drive for the new library addition; the city of Gloucester paid 2/3. As the Library’s General Chairman, Joe Garland led that campaign. Not surprising, the text of the brochure is a good read! The architect was Donald F. Monnell. (In 1971 Monnell was quoted in the papers speaking about the attributes of Central Grammar. One likes him more and more.) The population served was 27,000–nearly what it is today.
2016 Planning term and movement- “Scaling Up”
A quip about the concept of Scaling UP that I remember from a conference this past September at Peabody Essex Museum and hosted by Essex National Heritage was to “think about the farm not just a barn”; in this case a downtown, or an entire city and region. I like thinking this way in general–architecture and planning, art, and schools. But this conference pushed me to add overlays beyond my areas of expertise or focus like wildlife and waterways. Gloucester, Cape Ann, Massachusetts–there’s so much! Mayor Romeo Theken is committed to working together and feels that planning is important and broad. One example, see Gloucester Daily Times Dec 19, 2016 Officials: City to Prioritize Its (competing) Needs
There are several looming questions, evaluations, and decisions.
Every era has choices. The prior library expansion plans began well before 1972. Possibilities swirled as they do now. (Back then, Central Grammar was also in the news, may or may not have been razed, and possible uses favored senior housing, commercial development, an annex to City Hall, and a courthouse police station.) Today there are competing building needs and uses floated for properties as diverse as: the Cape Ann YMCA on Middle Street, the post office on Dale, the Gloucester Fire Department, police headquarters, St. Ann’s, and the elementary schools–and that’s just to name a few. Let’s celebrate enviable architectural strengths, and not fuss with buildings that should be venerated, unless it’s to help them be accessible and healthy. Let’s get the balance right.
HISTORY MAKING PLEA- Archives for all
The prohibitive costs of best practice historic preservation (ADA compliant, temperature and humidity controls, security, sustainability, in house scanning/OCR/audio transcription, etc) is impossible for all the worthy collections in town, and pits them as foes when vying for funds. Let’s flip that impediment on its head and make Gloucester a model for the state. Its treasures would be available worldwide if they were trulyaccessible –digitized.Two words may help accomplish this goal and free up cash for individual operations: shared overhead. It’s one hope I continue to stress–the need to share necessary resources for a state-of-the-art research and warehouse repository. This universal hub should be large enough to encompass any holdings not on view. There could be a smaller downtown central site combined with a larger off site location, such as at Blackburn. The list of sharing institutions could include and is by no means exhaustive: our municipal archives that date back to 1642; Cape Ann Museum; Sawyer Free Library; North Shore Art Association; Beauport; Hammond Castle; the Legion; Amvets and other social clubs; Sargent House; several places of worship; Gloucester Daily Times; Annisquam historical building collections; Lanesville; Magnolia’s historic collections; artists/writers estates; Veterans office; our schools; Isabel Babson Memorial Library, and perhaps businesses such as Cape Pond Ice and Gortons. The library plans don’t appear to retrofit their site(s) for this goal.
If incentives and policy supported neighborhood character over less generic construction
that would be wonderful. It’s not just Gloucester.
Three meetings with some items in common were held at the same time this past Wednesday, October 26, 2016: the standing School Committee meeting (including updates on new building) which include members Mayor Romeo Theken and Councilor Favazza; the Housing Building/Production Plan Public Forum #2 at City Hall which includes Councilor Lundberg; and a Forum to Focus on Building in the City held at the Magnolia library and community center with 3 Councilors LeBlanc, Orlando and Nolan.
Cape Ann TV filmed the first two. (I will add them into the post.)
School Committee Meeting
“We’re on a path right now.” “Nobody said we can’t pay.” “We’re in Phase II of a 3-phase plan. We may need to convince the community to vote for a debt exclusion to pay for it.”
The MSBA toured East Gloucester Elementary School earlier in the week to corroborate the condition related to the School Committee Statement of Interest to consolidate East Gloucester Elementary and Veterans Memorial. The School Committee relayed that the community is united in expressing a need for new schools, moving forward and not changing course. The MSBA ascertains the community’s readiness and ability to pay. Gloucester is still in the running for MSBA aid. The pool of applicants was whittled down to 30 from 89 and sometime December or January, Gloucester will learn if MSBA accepts the plan, rejects it or places it on hold. “Up, down, maybe the plan is for the East Gloucester/Veterans only.”
Housing Production Forum at City Hall (I’ll add links to the presentation and feedback from the Magnolia forum):
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Worcester, the host city for the Ma Smart Growth Conference, is Massachusetts’ second largest city and pretty pumped with a 500 million investment in their ‘city square’ area. The city invested 8 million dollars into their ‘streetscapes’, including a skating rink. “10,000 came out for themed skate nights!” I’ve heard skating rink wishes mentioned once or twice in Gloucester: discussions pro I4C2 or somewhere on Middle Street (“a scene nearly Currier and Ives!”) and why isn’t the O’Maley skating rink used by the students? “We used to use it for gym? It’s an amenity right there.”
Other conference talks focused on investment in public space and public health. Worcester aims to earn the distinction Healthiest Community in MA by 2020. They have the first and only accredited public health department so they’re investing in a core culture. The conference speakers spoke about housing, planning, walk-ability, return of multi-generational family households, and diversity. Millennials say: “Where do I want to live?” and then go. Their parents’ said “Where is the job?” and relocated. We were told many times that millennials are different than boomers: they don’t like traditional offices and buildings for work. They would rather walk, bike or commute by train. Ideally their life radius would fall within one mile, a neighborhood scale. How does that affect consolidating schools vs neighborhood schools and other debates ensued.
From a planning perspective: “Does the investment action help to encourage sprawl or does it invest in your community?”
The session “Is Housing a Municipal Budget Buster” was led by Mayor Donna Holaday of Newburyport and panelists included former Gov. Glendening and Umass Dartmouth Director of Public Policy, Michael Goodman. Most questions went to Mike Hogan, who gave a talk about Oceanspray’s residential venture in Plymouth, Redbrook Village. Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce brought him here to speak to our communities a couple of years ago. He said to say hi to Peter Webber :).
The second session I attended focused on arts and planning and was led by artist (ceramicist) and planner, Jennifer Erickson with Kenneth Bailey, Design Studio for Social Intervention (D24SI) and others. A projected slide loop featuring model national art projects scrolled continuously. I was so caught up in the briefs that I nearly missed one picture from Gloucester: the monumental Parsons Street mural by James Owen Calderwood. Congratulations James!
Cruz Ferreras took the photograph during a block party; there’s a Cape Ann Art Haven painting in progress and kids leaping. Since that photo, street lighting and more art was added, a second monumental mural, painted by children, under the direction of Cape Ann Art Haven. The Gloucester Fish Net mural was a temporary commission that is lasting because the road is primarily used for walking. (Also, the artist painted it over a second time, and widened it.) With funding, Cape Ann Art Haven art center or an individual artist like Jason Burroughs (who assisted James Owen Calderwood) could re-paint the mural. With funding and fresh sealcoating, we could issue a Call for a new work of art. There are several more walls along Parsons Street that could be a wonderful matrix for murals, or the streetscape for a dance or theater production.
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A sidewalk returns to Railroad Avenue. Some call it place making or Smart Growth. I say sometimes it’s nice to turn back time. Look at the old postcard image. We are lucky to have some of the same wide streets. Clean sidewalks – they’re great for residents. Great for commuters. Easier for families. Thank you DPW! It looks beautiful. I hope it inspires Shaws to match it up on the other side.
Bonus: It’s easier than ever to #strideby the Jeff Weaver mural at Ben’s Wallpaper and Paint and have a closer look. That mural changes now and again.
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