The award-winning Jack’s Abby Brewing Co. has made its home in downtown Framingham, drawing crowds from around the state. Image courtesy of Jack’s Abby Brewing Co.

Walk down the streets of downtown Framingham, and you’ll witness something you haven’t seen in 40 years – new residential construction that is bringing a sense of vitality to the neighborhood.   

I have been mayor of the city of Framingham for a little over a year now, but have been a resident of the community for more than three decades, and I can tell you firsthand that revitalizing our downtown has been a challenge. But the work that the city staff has put into developing an effective transit-oriented development strategy is beginning to pay off, and we’re seeing it with the hundreds of new units of housing that will come online over the next few years and the businesses that are either locating to or expanding in downtown.  

But now is the not the time to rest on our laurels – and we don’t intend to. Instead, we are looking to find ways to build on the successes of the last few years so that downtown Framingham can continue to grow. The area looks more vibrant now than it did five years ago, but that doesn’t mean we are anywhere near done in making it a destination for new residents and visitors alike. 

So what does that look like? In addition to building more housing, we know that galvanizing an urban environment requires three strategies: activation, programming and promotion. Even though we were a town up until January 2018, downtown Framingham has always had an urban feel to it. Making sure the businesses there can activate the sidewalks in front of their stores is important and we are exploring options to make it easier for them to do so.  

Additionally, we will want to look at ways that we can work with nonprofit partners and others to create programming that will attract men, women and families to downtown. Finally, although we have received more attention over the last few years for efforts to re-energize the neighborhood, downtown Framingham still feels like it is undiscovered country for many in the area – promoting the area remains a priority. 

Yvonne Spicer

Preparing for Fast-Changing Future 

We also want to make sure that the downtown neighborhood builds on its legacy as both an industrial and commercial center. New businesses are moving into 1 Grant St., once the site of the legendary Dennison Manufacturing Co., including a cluster of life sciences companies that are bringing the 21st century version of innovation to Framingham. But there is more room for even more companies and entrepreneurs who want to build and expand without the costly overhead they are finding in Boston and Cambridge. We are working hard to make sure those companies are aware that they can have all of the same opportunities in our city. 

And we’re looking to prepare our current business community for a fast-changing future. We want those corporations and small businesses who have made downtown Framingham their home for generations to survive and thrive. That means providing them with the technical assistance they may need to assess their business models or education and training. It may mean working with them on updating their current facilities. But we want them to continue to invest in and be a part of the fabric of our community, and we’ll support them in those efforts. 

Finally, we’re continuing to find ways to attract amenities to the downtown. We want visitors from across the region to know what a jewel downtown Framingham is. Already, the award-winning Jack’s Abby Brewing Co. has made a name for itself, and they’ve made a huge investment in the area by opening up both a beer hall and the Springdale Barrel Room. Restaurants, cafés, diners and bakeries have all opened their doors in Framingham over the last few years. We want to make sure that long-time residents and those visiting the city for the first time are aware of all of the amenities the neighborhood has to offer.  

It’s such a joy to see the sense of optimism in downtown Framingham these days, but given our plans for the next few years, I know the best days are yet to come.  

Dr. Yvonne M. Spicer is mayor of the city of Framingham 

Get Ready for More Excitement and Opportunity in Downtown Framingham

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min