I met with a group of landlords and other folks who live or own property in my village, South Deerfield this morning to discuss what we can do to help bring more businesses into town and make the downtown more inviting. Present were Rick and Julie Neylon, Town Administrator Wendy Foxmyn, Jessica Atwood, from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Bridget Heller, Paul Olszewski, Selectman Trevor McDaniel and Linda Gosenski.
We’ve been down this road before, as I mentioned at the start of the meeting. In fact, if you look closely at the photo, you’ll see the nice looking report that was written with a huge number of ideas and improvements that would make the village better but was put on a shelf after the charette and meetings were over in 2012. I wrote about it then on this blog. I had high hopes.
But undaunted, we were led in our discussion by Jessica Atwood of FRCOG, who has access to state grants, and really knows how this game is played. She even has funds right now to pay for a study, the first step in any big improvement project like this.
We talked about parking–and what might happen after Cumberland Farms leaves the town center with a big hole in it. It might be taken over by the two adjacent businesses, Wolfies and Primos. It might be a parking lot. We talked about the big town-owned parking lot between Greenfield Savings Bank and the former market. We also talked about the new market that’s planned for the former Elm Street Market spot–fingers crossed, this might be a great thing for the village.
Everyone agreed that part of our big challenge is getting those who come to Yankee Candle to take that crucial right turn, and actually visit our little downtown instead of getting right back on Route 91 to head back south. The new Cumberland Farms gas station that’s planned for the corner of Elm Street and Route 5 will certainly help, but now we need to get inviting sidewalks, decorative streetlights, and elements that draw people down the street.
One comment was made about how much money Deerfield and Eaglebrook contribute toward the town budget, both being very rich and tax exempt. Others wondered if we could count on anything from corporate-owned Yankee Candle in our efforts. It was pointed out that DA just paid around $300,000 for a new ambulance building. But many felt that their contributions should be much larger based on the number of children they have in our public schools and the costs of fire and police services.
I mentioned that we’ve already got a good Deerfield Town business website, Deerfield Attractions and that I’d be happy to help get some of our ideas and more information for potential businesses to relocate to town by adding pages to the town website. That too is not as easy as it sounds….but I think we’re making progress here, and I look forward to more meetings to continue talking and hopefully, getting some results.