Saturday, August 6, 2016

Slow Saturday Special: Taking It to the Streets

Such great memories of those times:

"How will Newbury Street’s closure to traffic affect businesses?" by Megan Woolhouse Globe Staff  August 05, 2016

Meg Mainzer-Cohen, president of the Back Bay Association, which represents hundreds of Back Bay businesses, called the closure a great idea that will roll out the welcome mat to new shoppers, thus helping businesses. She added that the association’s members — including some of the largest property owners on the street, developers Jamestown LLC, Urban Meritage and Talanian Realty Co. — support the concept.

“We live in a time when people want to experience public places in new and different ways,” Mainzer-Cohen said.

Fueling a fight between the Newbury Street League, a merchant’s group, and the Back Bay Association, which represents hundreds of Back Bay businesses, was hardly the reaction Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s staff sought to come up with “fun, new ideas” last winter that would make public spaces more inviting. That involved creating a “pedestrian-only avenue for residents and visitors” along Newbury Street that would attract people by bike and subway to roam seven blocks of roadway from Berkeley Street to Massachusetts Avenue.

The mayor’s “not looking to hurt business, we want to get more business there,” said Jerome Smith, the city’s director of Civic Engagement, noting that there are vacant storefronts amid Newbury Street’s swank shops.

Smith said the city is not spending any money on the event other than the price of police details, which he did not disclose.

And as for the dueling viewpoints of the two groups?

“They remain at odds about a lot of things,” Smith said. “We can’t resolve that.”

Mainzer-Cohen argued that “we think it’s an opportunity to expose Newbury Street to a new demographic.”

Sorry, but I'm going to skip the shopping today.


At lea$t you won't have to park your car in the garage. That's what I hate the most.

(And for the where are they now file....)

"Arlington Center has a vacancy problem" by Katheleen Conti Globe Staff  July 31, 2016

A bustling commercial strip with a thriving community of small businesses, Arlington Center is being abruptly rocked by rent spikes and an unusual run of storefront vacancies. The business district typically has very few vacant storefronts, but now more than a dozen sit empty — many of them next to each other.

Diners enjoying a late outdoor lunch on a recent sunny afternoon outside of Common Ground on Broadway were flanked by three empty storefronts that used to house a fitness studio, a CVS pharmacy, and an art gallery and gift shop. The vacant storefronts have been building over the past few years, and the most recent were caused by rising rents, said Beth Locke, executive director of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

“The center is in a bit of an aberration right now,” Locke said. “It’s unfortunate, but there are specific reasons for it. I don’t see it as a sign of an economic issue in the town or any sort of lack of interest in shopping and doing business in Arlington. It’s primarily a landlord issue; entirely a landlord issue.”

“People are very, very upset and are confused.”


I gotta get running, folks.


"Newbury Street closes to cars for a day" by Trisha Thadani and Jeremy C. Fox Globe Correspondents  August 07, 2016

Mayor Martin J. Walsh was upbeat as he walked through the throngs of shoppers Sunday morning, telling a reporter that he had not heard any opposition to the closure.

He obviously doesn't read a Globe.

“It’s been all positive. If any business can’t capitalize on this many people walking down the street, they should check their business model,” he said. 

OMG, what a lying a$$hole!

In a statement late Sunday afternoon, Walsh called the closure a success and said he would continue discussions with Back Bay merchants and residents to determine whether to plan another.

The event also drew praise from Meg Mainzer-Cohen, president of the Back Bay Association, which represents hundreds of businesses and supported the closure plan.

Mainzer-Cohen said she noticed no one who seemed inconvenienced and saw enthusiasm among shoppers and merchants.

The shutdown also temporarily eliminated 220 parking spaces, a spokeswoman for Walsh said. Nine parked cars had to be towed, she added.

That's not an inconvenience -- or a shock to your system when your car is gone from where you parked.

Many pedestrians welcomed the shift, as police blocked the street at 10 a.m., even if it took them by surprise. Several people on the sidewalk looked both ways and gingerly stepped onto the asphalt. A woman knelt in the middle of the road, stretched out her arms, and waited for a small boy to run into her embrace.

More people not reading the Globe. 

Am I the only one left?

Shop owners set up tables and racks of clothes outside their stores, while restaurants placed additional seating on the blacktop.

Lisa Shah, owner of LIT Boutique, said that by noon, her shop had seen double or triple its usual Sunday morning foot traffic.

“I don’t know why you wouldn’t be happy about this,” Shah said, as customers browsed clothing racks on the street. “We’re usually not this busy until 2 p.m.”

Amid the gentle buzz of activity, 64-year-old Dorothy Duval and her husband, John, 73, enjoyed people-watching from green Adirondack chairs relocated from City Hall Plaza for the day.

“We don’t know who put these here, but we’re glad they did,” Dorothy said

Outside Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, more than 50 listeners gathered around Brandon Shah’s band, SHAH.

Shah’s voice reverberated through the air as he harmonized with Kates Eyvazzadeh and strummed an acoustic guitar, as a cellist, drummer, and two electric guitarists performed behind him.

“I’ve busked on Newbury Street before, and it’s nice to have something to actually plug into,” Shah said, after a set that persuaded several people to drop cash into a bucket.

Had to move the show because of the rents.

Inside nearby Stilisti Boston, a hair salon, business went on as usual. Stylist Ali Reynhart, 24, said the salon hadn’t seen any additional business, but it took advantage of the extra foot traffic.

“We went outside and gave out little gift bags and free blow drys,” she said. “The atmosphere is really nice. . . . People haven’t had this much fun in the city in a while.”  

Doesn't she read a Globe? There is fun nearly every damn day!

A few businesses, though, suffered financially.

I get the impression they are not important.

Such losses were not the intent, officials said....

And they were literally written off on that polished piece of promotional puff.


Kind of at a crossroads when it comes to the Metro section these days.

Also see:

"Car-free Newbury got Boston out of its comfort zone" by Shirley Leung Globe Staff  August 09, 2016

Still, Open Newbury was not universally embraced. Some businesses resisted, worried it would drive regular customers away. Other merchants raised concerns about the high cost of organizing the event.

City staffers pushed for an organic approach. No expensive programming; let store owners do their own thing. The city would provide street furniture in the form of a few dozen plastic Adirondack chairs on loan from City Hall Plaza. Not much marketing beyond social media in May. Staffers then went door to door on Newbury Street to assure wary business owners.

By most accounts, Open Newbury was a huge success. Now people are talking about a car-free day on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, or on Tremont Street in the South End, or parts of Roslindale or West Roxbury, says Jerome Smith, the city’s chief of civic engagement, whose department organized Open Newbury.

“The success of Newbury Street opened many people’s eyes in the city,” Smith told me. “This could happen in my neighborhood.”

The Walsh administration has struggled to get Boston to try something new — whether it’s bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics or hosting the Grand Prix street race.

Spectacular failures both, but not on Sunday. Perhaps City Hall has learned how to get Boston out of its comfort zone. Let’s hope the movement extends past Newbury Street.

Beyond the mix of stores on Newbury Street, merchants need to make the shopping experience relevant and exciting. Imagine walking into a store, clicking what you want on your iPhone, and then having the clothes ready for you in the fitting room. It’s not a pie-in-the-sky, but what a Seattle startup called Hointer is is doing for merchants....


Yeah, time to close it all down.