Saturday, May 14, 2011

Development in Nobscot Signals a New Era

After years of decline, this spring signals the beginning of a new era in Framingham's village of Nobscot. This represents a ray of hope for the residents, business owners, and elected officials who formed the advocacy group Nobscot Neighbors, which now has nearly 300 members, over two years ago.

A lot of the criticism, and rightly so, has focused on the long-term vacancies and condition of the Nobscot Shopping Center on Water Street, the largest commercial property in the village. While it's easy to get overfocused on such a visible problem, it's instructional to look beyond it at the other positive developments in the immediate area.

Anyone driving through the intersection of Edgell Road and Water Street/Edmands Road sees that ground has been broken at the former Mobil gas station at 900 Edgell Road, where a new TD Bank branch will be completed by the fall. This new development will provide a strong anchor presence to one of the four key corners of the village crossroads.

Across Edgell Road at the former Redline Diner/Riley's Roast Beef site, the parking lot has just been repaved and interior building renovations are underway. A new restaurant operator will be re-opening this long-standing Nobscot dining spot soon.

At the Nobscot Village Plaza on Edgell Road, a new building facade has been constructed, from Datti's liquor store around to the side where Nobscot's Cafe` and other businesses are located, with new, improved signage on the way. There is also a new business, The All Natural Face, a vegan makeup store, located in this plaza.

Across Edgell Road at the former Jiffy Lube location, a new sign indicates the owner is now open to not just leasing the property, but also offering a lease to buy option and financing. This makes the property much more attractive to prospective businesses.

Meanwhile, at 49 Edmands Road, just a few hundred feet back from the crossroads at Edgell Road, Shillman House, a 150-unit senior independent living community, is scheduled to open in June. While it has been a controversial project to many Nobscot residents, the infusion of several hundred new residents within walking distance of the local shops represents an opportunity for village businesses to gain many new customers.

At the corner of Edgell Road and Water Street, the Nobscot Chapel building is now in the process of being taken by the town for non-payment of water and sewer bills. While unfortunate, once this matter works it way through the courts, the town would then be able to sell the property and have the site put back into active use.

And while anyone living or working in the area knows that the Water Street Roadway Reconstruction Project has been inconvenient at times, it will bring significant benefit to Nobscot. Its primary purpose, to replace and upgrade the existing water and sewer lines, means that Nobscot will have the infrastructure capacity to properly support not just present use, but future development.

It also relocated the pipes from beneath the parking lot of the shopping center, which is private property, onto the public roadway, which opens the shopping center to possible redevelopment opportunities as well. In addition, the shopping center benefits from a partially resurfaced parking lot, and the village has a brand-new roadway and sidewalks.

And finally, the proposed construction of a new branch of the Framingham Public Library in Nobscot has the potential to be transformational for the village. While there are many more hurdles to be overcome before this project would become a reality, many important steps have already been completed. This includes selection of a site on Water Street adjacent to the shopping center, and applying for a state grant that would provide half of the construction funding.

Nobscot definitely has far to go to reach the level of its heyday decades ago. And its future may not closely resemble its past in some ways. Yet with more development and renovation underway than we've seen in many years, however, it's clear that better days for this Framingham village are on the way.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Local Author's First Novel Features Framingham Scenes

Southborough resident Steve Ulfelder needed some grit in his first novel, a detective story set in Massachusetts, and one of the places he found it is downtown Framingham.

Purgatory Chasm is being released this week and has several key scenes that take place downtown, including Salvation Army AA meetings and the nearby railroad tracks. His main character is named Conway Sax, perhaps in reference to our village of Saxonville?

The title refers to Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton, where a murder takes place that Sax sets out to solve. In the process Sax makes his way through some places that locals will easily recognize.

Ulfelder will be signing copies of his book on May 14 at Tatnuck Bookseller & Sons in Westborough. Maybe an appearance in Framingham could be next?