Upham's Corner Online

Hotspots in Upham's Corner - Blighting our Business District

Posted: Monday, October 4, 2010
Nancy Conrad
Hotspots Photo Essay
The Upham's Corner business district has long had irritation spots (hotspots) that never seem to go away - litter, trash, grafitti and more.  It's almost as if we are turning a "deaf ear" or a "blind eye" to what's around us.   While our primary focus is the business district, the "site cleanliness" issues range in varying degrees through all of our neighborhoods.

The analogy of a dog with a serious flea infestation is apropos.  

Fleas inhabiting a dog will bite and make the dog scratch.  If you, the owner, wait long enough, your dog will get hotspots -- open lesions that need to be treated or the dog will get worse. 

So we finally take our poor, bedraggled, flea-bitten dog in for evaluation.  The vet tells us in no uncertain terms: "Either the medicine is not working (why did you wait so long?) or YOU are not giving your dog its flea medicine." 

The message we get from her is one of responsibility.  It is pointed at us, not the dog.  "There are solutions to flea problems," she tells us, "if your dog still has fleas, you are doing something wrong."

Well! (Poor little puppy.)
Realistically we need to ask ourselves: Why do we put up with this?  Have we given up or maybe we've grown accustomed to this way of life?  

Ode to Upham's Corner

A little bit of litter, a little bit of trash
Graffiti on this building and that one, too!

A few, almost hidden mounds of human waste
Peeling paint and collapsing stone walls

Broken curbs and bricks run amok
Probably won't kill us (and neither will fleas)

We love you, Upham's Corner
We love you indeed.

Who, we ask, is wagging the dog's tail?  In other words are there some fundamental reasons why the blighted state of our business district continues as the norm?  Is there a reason why some neighborhoods in Upham's Corner have more litter than others?

Perhaps we have - letting our neigborhood "go to the dogs" so to speak?
  • If we can get to CVS or New York Chicken or wait safely for public transportation, or sit peaceably on our front porches, why complain so much? As long as we don't mind, isn't that all that counts?
Are we just too busy? - Too much going on in our personal lives, working too many jobs to stay afloat.  Is it a lack of time and our personal inability to contribute that's wagging the dog's tail?  
  • Maybe putting in regular effort to clean up the streets or pursue those who are derelict is too much work?  Maybe we are hoping "the City" will handle the issues. 
Is holding up our flea-bitten dog for pity's sake what's wagging the dog's tail?
  • Without even knowing it, we may be expecting "outside help" from the government or an economic development organization. The cleaner our city, the less deserving we are of help. 
If Upham's Corner were our child, personally unclean and unkempt (whew!!), wouldn't we take strong steps to correct the problem (or else!)?  If we didn't do this, we could be accused of neglect or bad parenting.

"Here's a great-looking place on the map - Upham's Corner - Strand Theater.  Let's go visit."

 Yes!  Let's go visit Upham's Corner for the very first time.  What impression do we get?
  • Do we like what we see?
  • Does it draw us in?
  • Do we want to live here?
  • Do we want to shop here?
  • Do we want to set up business here?
Behind the words "weeds, grafitti and trash" lie real conditions in our business district - real hotspots.   How pervasive is it? Are there only a few problematic areas, or is it bigger than that?  

Let's say we have 10 quality businesses lined up in a row on Dudley Street.  What effect does one area covered with grafitti or trash or weeds have on all the businesses around?  

Think about this true story.  

We began our work for Richard enthusiastically. After all he was an internationally recognized businessman.

Not long after starting work, we noticed that although he came to work dressed well, there was a problem.  His elbow kept popping out of his jacket sleeve which had a "hole", and the surrounding area was thread-bare.  

This anomaly used to  distract us. Why would he dress this way? Then one day, we stopped noticing.  Now we were both in agreement:   The "hole" didn't matter - it was  OK.

That's when we began the downhill slide as well.  A missing button?  Who cares?

Psychologically, we all tend to come to agreement on our environments and we all tend to conform.  This is normal human nature, but we need a mechanism for making sure we are conforming to a standard that keeps us HEALTHY.

The expression - "the company you keep" - applies here.
Over the last two decades Upham's Corner has made tremendous strides in its growth, stability, visual appearance and offering of businesses.  Compare our current status to the early 1990's when Upham's Corner was a drug haven and murders were commonplace.

Despite the improvement, we have a long way to go.   Upham's Corner demographics place us well behind the Boston norm for family income.  The quality of our businesses and their ability to attract paying customers depend on the health of Upham's Corner.   

We MUST begin by lauding the efforts of our current residents and businesses as they improve, beautify and grow their spaces.   At the same time, we MUST put effort into improving what is NOT up to standard.

What's in our  Hotspots Photo Essay?  
  1. Not everything - only a few problem areas 
  2. Hotspot photos interspersed with photos of current businesses - the contrast is dramatic
  3. Before and after photos - computer simulations of how GREAT our business district could look.  

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