Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Great Year for Downtown Renaissance

Have you noticed how much the positive profile of downtown Framingham has increased during 2012? That, I believe is largely due to the efforts of the Framingham Downtown Renaissance (FDR) organization. The group, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, has been around since 2003, and itself underwent a revitalization last year with its board of directors. But the big change in 2012 was the hiring of a full-time director, the irrepressible Holli Andrews.  She holds a master's degree in community planning and development, and came to the job in Framingham after a successful two-year stint with a similar organization in Biddeford, Maine.

Andrews is a person who gets it. She sees downtown Framingham's strengths and also its challenges and has not only a vision but the energy and skills to implement it. She knows how to use both traditional and social media to further her organization's aims and get the word out. And she walks the walk - you may run into her after work hours socializing in a downtown establishment, as I did a few weeks ago, or at a community event.

And speaking of events, FDR's Winter Wonderland Festival on December 10 transformed downtown, with dozens of storefront windows painted with holiday scenes, and strolling groups of carolers to entertain shoppers. And that was just on the heels of another successful downtown event, the Farm Pond Fall Festival.

Naysayers who mutter that downtown will never be improved may scoff at the idea of these events. But the enthusiasm for, and the attendance and participation in them points toward a desire in the town for just these type of community gatherings. And the model for revitalization of traditional downtown areas is firmly established in the national Main Street program, which is strongly informing the FDR effort. And let's not also forget the great downtown funding and development news from October, which will be a critical part of the engine that pushes the downtown renaissance forward.

I look forward with anticipation to what FDR will accomplish in 2013 after such a successful 2012.