The Streetscape woes go round and round

By Rishi Sidhu | Jun 05, 2012
Photo by: Rishi Sidhu Kristine Hastreiter, owner and chef at Gourmet and Gourmand on Main Street, sits behind her counter and her "construction relief fund" jar filled with loose money from customers attempting to help her with her plight. Hastreiter said that she has already started digging into her personal funds and if things don't improve, she may have to shut down by the beginning of July.

Some love the project and some hate it, but mention of the word "streetscape" out loud while walking down Main Street and you will be sure to hear an earful of very strongly held opinions.

The "Streetscape" project is the revitalization of Main Street in downtown Wareham, planned under the guidance of the Community and Economic Development Authority (CEDA).

Preliminary construction on the first phase of the project, which extends from the Post Office to Center Street, began in November of 2011 and is slated to finish by the end of June.

The project aims to make Main Street more pedestrian friendly, said CEDA Director Salvador Pina, by widening the sidewalks, making them handicap accessible, and installing what are known as "bump-outs," or rounded out portions of sidewalk that extend out into the street with the intent to slow down traffic for pedestrians crossing the road. (Hired this year, Pina was not involved in the design of the project, which began years and at least two CEDA directors ago.)

Kristine Hastreiter, owner and chef at Gourmet & Gourmand, an artisan bakery located at 219 Main Street, has had nothing but bad luck since the project started.

The biggest sales of the year for her bakery, Hastreiter said, take place during the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. That is when 75% of total business is conducted, she said.

During Thanksgiving of 2011, shortly after the project began, the sidewalk in front of her business was dug up, Hastreiter said. During Easter of this year, construction again blocked off the front of her store.

Because Gourmet and Gourmand does not have a rear entrance like other businesses on Main Street, explained Hastreiter, customers had trouble accessing her store during those crucial weeks.

"It has brought my business on the brink of disaster, which took me nine years to build," said Hastreiter, who opened the bakery in 2003.

Traci Medeiros, owner of The Gallery Consignment Shop at 247 Main Street, does have a rear door entrance to her store — one that she painted "lipstick red" to attract customers once she realized that construction was beginning on Main Street, she said.

Medeiros also lost business because of the project, she said, but is concerned mainly about the problem of parking, a problem made worse by the loss of parking spaces to "bump-outs," she explained.

Medeiros said that customers like to park in front of the stores that they visit, get the items they want, and then leave.

"If there's not a spot right out front [on Main Street] or right on Merchants Way, my customer will drive by," said Medeiros.

"The way it's set up, I think it's going to be a big challenge for parking, a big challenge for emergency personnel, and I think people may find alternative ways to get around town because they want to avoid the narrow road," said Medeiros, later adding: "I really do think it's going to look fantastic, I just don't think it's going to be vehicular friendly," Medeiros said.

Pina said that there were only four parking spaces that were lost due to the project, however. He said the project was designed according to legal requirements to ensure that traffic could flow unhindered and safely along Main Street.

Pina said that a vehicle such as a snow plow would be able to successfully plow the road. "It does require a different technique for plowing, but it can be done," Pina said, noting: "we're not the only town in the U.S. with bump-outs."

Though he feels that the bump-outs are manageable, Pina said he reduced the size of one bump-out on the corner of Center Street and Main Street when residents complained about the difficulty of turning between the two streets.

"We asked the contractor to reduce the size of the bump-out because people were uncomfortable with it," said Pina, even though "the engineers had designed the roads to meet the codes."

Ultimately, Pina said, he understood the difficulties being faced by the businesses during the construction, as well as the concern for parking.

Pina said that he is trying to address both issues by putting forth a repaving project that he hopes will increase the number of parking spaces available at the town's Pezzoli Square parking lot, located between Eastern Bank and Frankenstein's Hot Dogs on Main Street.

Money that will be spent on that was previously slated to repave the two streets leading into Merchants Way from Main Street with a special resin that would make the streets look like they were covered with brick, Pina said.

Because it was learned that the special resin was not suitable for those two streets, Pina said, Pina and the CEDA board decided to spend that money on repaving and rededicating Pezzoli Square.

The square will be rededicated sometime in July after the Swan Festival, Pina said. A new plaque will be displayed, which will draw attention to the parking area, the updated sidewalks, and the downtown businesses. The area will also get a new flagpole.

Pina also said that he is planning to put up two new parking signs that will direct drivers to the currently underutilized square.

In addition, Pina said he is working with Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School students, who will design wooden signs to hang from businesses. The town will purchase the signs, which will look as though they are hand-carved, Pina said. Installation of the signs will be paid for by the individual business owners.

Demetrios Kalkanis, the manager of Minerva's Pizza on Main Street, which has been in business since 1969, said that though the construction has impacted his business, he is hopeful that the end product feel more like downtown from the old days.

"It's a little bit of inconvenience for the present, but hopefully it's … moving forward," said Kalkanis. "Anything we can do to improve Main Street and downtown, I'm all for," he added. "Bring back a little bit of Wareham … when we were the place to be."

Regardless of whether someone likes or dislikes the project, noted Interim Wareham Village Association President Anthi Frangiadis, residents should not think that the project will make or break downtown Wareham.

"I see it as one step," said Frangiadis, "one step in the process of revitalizing Main Street."

Frangiadis, who noted that the Wareham Village Association has just moved into its new office at 245 Main Street, said that many things needed to be done in order to attract businesses to the downtown area.

Ultimately, Pina said, the Streetscape project is a necessary step in building a space where people want to come and shop. Pedestrians are supposed to feel "safe" while walking the sidewalks, and vehicles are supposed to drive by slowly so that drivers will notice the businesses.

"More pedestrians means more traffic to the stores," Pina said. "If they don't feel comfortable crossing the street, they are not going to walk down there."

Pina added: "You have to set expectations that you can build business downtown, but it starts with infrastructure."

Medeiros wondered whether Wareham residents are ready for that kind of pedestrian-centered change. "As much as we may want to be like Falmouth, we're not, we're not there yet," Medeiros said, referring to the busy shopping area down-Cape.

But, Medeiros said, if people were ready for the change that Streetscape entails, she would be all for it.

"I think if the proper steps are taken to keep the parking situation under control … and if [Pina] can change the mindset and get more commerce down here … different types of commerce, more of the cute quaint shops to fill in with the cute quaint "streetscape," then we'll have a marriage," she said.

Comments (29)
Posted by: shop247 | Jun 05, 2012 05:36

Streetscape = biggest waste of money!  Why didn't they pave Gibbs Ave?  Less parking really makes me want to go downtown so I can walk on a big side walk????  What are these people thinking?  Wareham is a drive through town.  There is nothing to walk around for.  I want food, I park and eat or pick up.  I have to bank, I park and bank.  I don't park and walk around town, there is nothing there.  The plows will certainly have fun this winter.  I'll never understand why funds aren't put to good use...you know for something USEFUL.  I stopped driving through town when they were deconstructing Sandwich Road.  I took my banking, my post office and business to West Wareham.  I do most of my shopping in Fairhaven and when the market picks up, I'll be moving out of Wareham.  This town is a disgrace in how it manages its funds.



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Jun 05, 2012 06:37

This has to be, by far, the stupidest project that I have seen this town take on.  The other day I had a firetruck trying to go by on the opposite side of the road and I had nowhere to pull over.  This will slow down response time for sure when it gets all full of "pedestrians" (aka homeless and teens).  It worked for Buzzards Bay to some extent but the road was about double the width.  This Main Street was designed for horse and buggy, not today's SUV's and other vehicles.

 

I cannot even fathom what was going through these peoples heads when they thought this was a good idea.  Just another reason to shake my head and hope for a better day in a better town.



Posted by: bruce gannon | Jun 05, 2012 07:05

Not sure there is anything to add accept yet another bewildered voice. First I really can't stand anyone that hides behind "they meet code". To use a phrase heard often when talking about sports, "what do your eyes tell you?" This was truly one of the most short sited, ill-conceived ideas to come to Wareham, since Mark Andrews. On the rare occasion that I have walked the sidewalks I never felt they were unsafe and too narrow, I seriously doubt anyone else did. And just what are we making the sidewalks more pedestrian friendly for, empty store fronts? This was a money grab and then wasted. It was known that projects like this, "downtown beautification" were the easiest to have the state approve and it was thought by those in charge that it could be used to curry political favor. A "pork barrel" project of sorts. But as is often the case the result, which should have been anticipated and was by many, failed to live up to it's billing. But heck we'll have the prettiest, empty downtown in the area.



Posted by: zinzindorff9 | Jun 05, 2012 09:03

Just another way to throw taxpayer money away. It really isn't "free."  Monies would have been better spent hiring painters to paint the buildings downtown whose owners obviously won't and maybe install store awnings for the summer. A lot of money has been spent to make the Main street less easy to use and I can't help but believe it was done to make the firehouse more difficult to use and more readily for the big expensive move. (But go ahead and lay off those teachers!)



Posted by: zinzindorff9 | Jun 05, 2012 09:07

As for the bakery!  Go into the "REAL" donut business (dunkin donuts should be ashamed) and the customers would beat a path to your door all year.  Remember the lines waiting for donuts at the Cranberry cottage when they made them on premise.  Now you have to go to North New Bedford for a real donut.



Posted by: law321 | Jun 05, 2012 10:49

Have you all lived here too long? “Main Street was designed for horse and buggy”? Not this day and age. Time for change people. Wareham needs any improvements it can get! From what I have heard, more than a few people have been struck by vehicles on Main Street. So why not start with the safety of pedestrians, which I believe this project was intended for, not to mention, beautify our downtown area. So many towns are “streetscaping” and I have seen nothing but good come from it. Wareham does not have to be a “drive through” town. Did you ever think that maybe if we beautify our downtown, it might attract more businesses? I, personally, would like to see more artists come here. As for the bakery, yes, home-made donuts and coffee sound good to me!



Posted by: bluebird | Jun 05, 2012 11:24

The new Streetscapes will look great when done, however....will there be any reason to go downtown to use those sidewalks by that time? Wareham has a great downtown, or at least one with great potential! However, it is not the Main St. of my childhood, in those days there was plenty to do in downtown, and one could easily spend a morning or afternoon strolling the sidewalk. We had Jay's Drug store, Marble Hardware, McClellan's (sp?) 5 &10, a small grocery store (long before my time it was First National, later it was Wareham "??") a couple of gift shops, and then there was always Decas's Variety (how many newspapers did we buy there every summer?) with it's old time decor including those big ceiling fans! We had several Banks (still do, even if they are no longer "local" ones), And I think there was a sewing store?, many stores had back entrances in  those days and people parked out on Merchant's Way and walked through the first store they visited then out to the sidewalk to visit other stores. It was just so "small-town" classic!

Well ,it is now the 21st Century, and sadly we no longer need a "camera shop" (Win's), people get their news online and produce from the SUPERmarket, rather than the little vegtable stand (Decas's)......but if a way could be found to promote small business on Main St. we could at least have somewhat of those good old days feel. How about a good, old-fasioned coffe shop/diner? As far as needing those bump-outs to slow traffic on Main St......... I guess whoever designed them had never tried to drive through Main St. on a typical summer Saturday morning! Speed limit 25mph......... try more like 15 mph! With constant stopping to allow people to cross the street or get in or out of their cars. I'm not complaining about that......just merely saying that when business is (was?) brisk on Main St. the "problem" of slowing traffic down seems to have taken care of itself! The need to slow traffic down seems like more of a need on Merchant's way, since people use it as a "bypass" during "rush hours" on Main St.



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Jun 05, 2012 12:37

Law321,

 

Yes, designed for horse and buggy.  How many of those other towns who are streetscaping have a Main Street this narrow to begin with?  It was designed for narrow vehicles.  These don't exist today.  Getting with the times and having a safer, wider street would have been nice.  Perhaps making it easier for those of us with slightly smaller cars to be able to see around the hulking SUV's parked on the corners of roads before pulling out onto Main Street would have been nice.  ANYTHING but restricting it down even more.  Good Lord.  I agree 100 % that it is and will always be a drive through downtown.  And now it will be a drive around downtown.



Posted by: KAREN SPINKS | Jun 05, 2012 13:00

My hope is that this is the beginning of making Main St a destination rather than being a quick stop to run into the bank or P.O.   A bustling and attractive Main St is more likely to encourage new businesses to open up than the neglected, litter strewn Main Street that previously existed.   Note the number of vacant stores. 

Wareham has not fully benefited from the tourists that flock to town every year.  Tourists spend money and my hope is that Main St will become a destination for tourists to stop and spend money.   In that case, the project which was paid for by a grant, may prove to be a major boost to our economy.



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Jun 05, 2012 13:07

Karen,

 

One major problem that I see with not attracting tourists is that we have only a handful of "motels" (if you want to call them that) for them to stay at.  Bring in a big good hotel and see if people will stay then.  Of course, why would a hotel want to be here?  There is absolutely no proof to them that the town cares to promote tourism.  It is a real catch 22 situation.



Posted by: law321 | Jun 05, 2012 14:22

Wanttoseechange,

A.D. Makepeace plans to bring in a new hotel at Rosebrook Place among other ammenities. In my opinion, Wareham is in the perfect location for just about anything. We are conveniently located near major highways and close to Boston, Providence and the Cape but without all the hustle and bustle. We are trying to promote tourism by beautifying our downtown and making it safer. I would REALLY love to see an extension of the MBTA’s commuter rail come to Wareham!!



Posted by: Susan A Noonan | Jun 05, 2012 15:03

This problem started at the very, very beginning. I am positive that I will be corrected on the specifics on this, and I have no fear. The public meeting regarding this project was held at a very inconvenient time for most residents of the town. My recollection is that it was in the morning on a week day. I have said it before and I will say it again: meetings regarding important town changes cannot and must not be scheduled when the voting population, the residents of the town and other interested parties have no chance of attending. All of the above concerns could have been addressed at that meeting. But if no one can go to the meeting . . .

In addition, the point made in the article about the town buying the signs for the businesses and the businesses paying for the installation warrants a comment or two. First, from a business standpoint, a business that is struggling is not going to make putting up a new sign a priority if they can barely pay the rent. Second, what happens when (unfortunately) a business closes and leaves Main Street? They leave the sign? Take the sign with them? This sounds to me like a shut up bone being thrown to the businesses.



Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Jun 05, 2012 18:12

Law321,

 

I completely agree that Wareham is a great location for people to stop and stay.  Don't get me wrong about that.  I think it has a lot of what tourists want without the traffic (except at those pesky East Wareham Cranberry Hwy lights).  I hope that AD Makepeace is in fact going to go through with the plans for that hotel.  I just don't know why a hotel would want to be here without the need to be here.  I think that if one is successful, others will follow but we need that one first.

 

Also, I would not be against the MBTA coming to town either.  I don't know where it would go to but I would love to see the whole WalMart/Stop and Shop and other stores mowed down to make a station.  Parking is there, and the tracks are there.  Once WalMart leaves (and anyone who thinks they aren't is kidding themselves) that place will be a ghost town anyways.

 

I don't agree with you on "beautifying our downtown and making it safer".  That is a waste.  Plain and simple.  In fact, if I had money to start a business, I would open an auto side view mirror and tire business.  People are going to need those more often around here.



Posted by: zinzindorff9 | Jun 05, 2012 18:12

You do realize that it is listed on Street Maps and all GPS's as route #6   (road to Cape Cod)

If you could move the main therofare over to Merchants way and leave Main just a street downtown,  then you would have something worthwhile.



Posted by: zinzindorff9 | Jun 05, 2012 18:19

You do realize that it is listed on all street maps and GPS's as route #6  (highway to Cape Cod)

 

If all traffic could be moved over to Merchants Way leaving Main just as a street downtown you would really have something.  (but you would still be laying off 21 teachers as you build a new "Firehouse.)



Posted by: Blue Heron | Jun 05, 2012 19:11

Was this project approved by the BOS?  And were the Main St business owners involved in the planning and need?  I also think that there are more than 4 parking spaces lost.  There are 3 alone at the post office area.  And, now, where the bump outs block two spaces, a vehicle has to back into a tight space slowing down traffic.   We have decided to drop our PO box because of we are aggravated by the project as much as the idea.



Posted by: shop247 | Jun 06, 2012 05:50

Wareham is a great destination as you avoid the bridges and cape traffic.  While a hotel would be a great attraction, what will people do once they get here?  The town itself has nothing to offer.  Any hotel would have to be like a resort that offers onsite activities so the visitor does not have to leave the hotel property.  The hotel would have to offer transportation to a local beach as parking stickers are required for some beaches and there is NO parking available at other beaches.  None of this brings tourism to downtown as it is not a destination for a traveler.   I live in Wareham.  In the past year, I have been to town once.  I don't even drive through town to get to the other side.  If I don't go downtown why would a tourist?  I can't imagine anything that would make me want to drive through the area, let alone stop there.
I understand the intention of streetscaping but this isn't Nantucket, the Vineyard, Buzzard's Bay, Onset or any other community where walking is the norm.  There is no reason for someone to want to walk through downtown especially seeing the element that hangs around the pawn shop.  We may as well be talking about walking through the dark side of New Bedford or Brockton.  Wareham might have put some thought into the pawn shop location while they were planning a downtown beautification project.

If I were vacationing in Wareham, I'd visit Onset or the canal before I'd visit downtown.  I don't care what kind of businesses you put there, I wouldn't stop.  I'd drive around the downtown area to avoid the slower pace, the smaller space and the congestion.  As a vacationer, I would go to Wareham Crossing to do some shopping or to East Wareham depending on where in Wareham I was staying.  I would not drive to Wareham Center to walk around and poke my head into a pawn shop or consignment store.
The bitter irony of the whole project is that it will cause some of the existing stores to close.



Posted by: Bozo8556@aol.com | Jun 06, 2012 07:55

Unfortunately this will probably end up being a pig in a prom dress



Posted by: Onset_mom | Jun 06, 2012 15:14

Hey, our schools are going down the toilet.... why don't we lay off some teachers and make parking a hassle in Wareham center at the same time....  sounds good to me.... idiots



Posted by: Mr. M. | Jun 06, 2012 19:08

what brain trust hired this CEDA Director? the "pedestrian's" on Main Street are mostly residents of the sober house hanging around waiting for another day to pass by.

THEY are the reason why downtown is suffering. Forcing people to park out back Marchant's Way can be downright dangerous! I won't allow my wife to park out back.

Once again the powers that be have hired an inept political pawn who knows nothing about our community but is going to tell us what is good for it.



Posted by: marygrnhse | Jun 06, 2012 19:08

I made a pledge to try to support Main Street businesses during the sidewalk construction so I decided to go to a restaurant I'd never been to. I signaled, slowed down my car, stopped, and as I was backing into the parking space, almost got rear ended. This is crazy!



Posted by: AndJusticeForAll | Jun 06, 2012 20:57

Perhaps there being three(3) CEDA directors in as many years is a clear indication as to the idiocy of this project. Of course what a surprise that more funds are missing from yet another Town account. "Pedestrian friendly" sidewalks are NOT what attracts new business - better looking properties, ample customer parking, and low rents are what attracts new business. Inadvertently this is also what attracts tourism dollars however Wareham not having a Tourism Director or Department to speak of it's no wonder we are losing both businesses and tourism dollars. With any property large enough to house a real attraction being too far away from Main Street this is just another total waste of money.



Posted by: zinzindorff9 | Jun 07, 2012 16:30

Seems like "not one positive" about this project that will cost the taxpayers 22 million dollars according to todays Courier.  Since it is understood that we have few walkers down Main Street (as we do have in Onset.) I wonder if there is enough left of those millions to decrease the size of the present sidewalks and "widen" Main St.  Skip the New firehouse and extend the present one by eliminating one of the two parking lots on either side of the present house?



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jun 07, 2012 17:51

If that truly is the cost then everyone involved including the Governor should be removed from office effective today. One can only hope that it is far less, like 1/22nd of that. Even at 1 million the cost is high for what is being done. I bet local landscapers would be banging down the door to get that job.



Posted by: KAREN SPINKS | Jun 08, 2012 10:24

Having lived in the city I've  witnessed run down areas such as Dorchester, Brighton, Somerville, and the South End,(to name a few) where dilapidated crime ridden areas have been gentrified and as a result have become very desirable places to live.  There are great places to eat, galleries and people do walk around.   There is absolutely no reason why Wareham will be any different especially when the commuter rail comes to Wareham .   This is very good news in terms of property values.

I'd like to see a Cranberry Museum open up in the Tremont Nail building. We could really do with an ice cream store and, if Besse Park were given a facelift, that would be a nice place to go and sit with an ice cream or cup of coffee.

I disagree with  those who say that Wareham will always be a 'drive by' town evidenced by the fact that Wareham's population doubles every summer.

If the dumpsters were enclosed, Merchants Way could  be a perfect place to set up cafe tables  so that tourists and locals alike could stop for a bite to eat.  It makes no sense not to take advantage of the water view that's right there. When the commuter rail comes, that would be THE place to have a coffee and check emails before heading off to work.

IMO cleaning up Main St is going to contribute significantly to turning the  Wareham economy around.




Posted by: Jaime Rebhan | Jun 08, 2012 12:00

Hello!

 

Just a point of information: According to our records, the project will cost $800,000. We will confirm!

 

Best,

Jaime



Posted by: KAREN SPINKS | Jun 08, 2012 12:22

Thank you Jaime..... I too believe that $800000 was the  figure given last year when we were informed that we were to receive the grant money from the state. What's important to mention also is that the project is not at the expense of laying off teachers since the funding comes from different sources.

 



Posted by: bob | Jun 08, 2012 16:11

keep dreaming about the rail service...ask your state rep.,and state senator..you got the big dig to repair,now and in the future......



Posted by: zinzindorff9 | Jun 09, 2012 15:31

Maybe the $800,000 is warehams piece of the pie cause the wareham courier on thursdays front page story says 22 million.  And even though that money can't go to the teachers, it should. And that 22 million that someone is trying to find places to spend still comes from you and I if you pay any state income tax.



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