March 22, 2018

MetroWest communities get $60K in downtown planning grants

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Front Street in downtown Ashland. The town is considering a business improvement district to help cover marketing, events or aesthetic improvements.

Four MetroWest communities — Ashland, Marlborough, Shrewsbury and Stow — have received $15,000 state grants each for planning efforts to improve their downtowns.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced the funding Tuesday to the Marlborough Community Development Authority.

Ashland's funding will study the feasibility of creating a business improvement district, which creates a tax surcharge on property owners to help pay for improvements such as marketing, events, parking or streetscape improvements. Hudson recently began such a district and is one of few communities in the state to have one.

Marlborough will use the funding to develop branding to help create a sense of place, according to the state's announcement, and for better signs to strengthen the pedestrian and vehicle connections. That effort comes as the city's been focusing efforts on increasing growth downtown, in part through a 2014 rezoning allowing denser development there.

Shrewsbury has planned a parking management strategy for its own center based on recommendations made in the town master plan. Much of the town's recent development has taken place along Route 9 and other areas outside the center.

Stow will use the state grant to conduct a market analysis on the economic impact of business district improvements in the town's Lower Village, a neighborhood that includes Lower Common and the Shaw's-anchored Town Shopping Plaza.

In all, 19 communities received $185,000 from the state's Massachusetts Downtown Initiative.

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