Upham's Corner Online

Neighborhood Services Walk-Through of Upham's Corner February 16, 2011

Posted: February 16, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Flavio Daveiga (Neighborhood Services) scheduled a walk-through of Upham's Corner to begin addressing some of the issues recently identified.  Present were Zachary Cohen, Michelle Waldon and Joane Tighe from Upham's Corner Main Street, Flavio Daveiga, Tim McCarthy from Public Works and Nancy Conrad, Upham's Corner News.  

Zachary Cohen opened by reviewing the 2007 Public Infrastructure Deficit Report created by Upham's Corner Main Street and submitted to the City of Boston.  It identified cracked sidewalks, crosswalk issues, missing or inadequate trash barrels, vacant tree pits and signage as the top concerns.  A multi-departmental city-side task force met several times but their efforts were halted in the face of city budget restrictions.  

Zach also noted that Main Street had really nice signs designed for Upham's Corner, but they were never installed. Recently, he noted, there have been some improvements - handicap ramps installed and some of the sidewalks repaired.

Michelle Waldon noted the stark unfriendly streetscape that characterizes Upham's Corner.  She also placed high priority on way finding signs, stating that the future increased usage of the Upham's Corner Fairmount stop underscores the need for signage directing debarking passengers to both the business district and the Strand Theatre.
Tim McCarthy addressed several Public Works issues.

   1. They like the new "big belly" wireless trash cans because Public Works can remotely identify which trash barrels need emptying.
   2. Under ADA rules, a vacant tree pit can only be replanted if the distance from the building to the edge of the tree pit satisfies ADA width requirements.

Nancy Conrad brought up the new trash barrels and bus furniture (metal seats) installed by the MBTA along the bus routes, everywhere except in the Upham's Corner business district.  According to the MBTA spokesperson, the Upham's Corner business district will get the same street furniture during a phase two rollout after the community provides input on the location of the seats and barrels.
The group discussed the condition of the brick sidewalks and how dangerous they can become.  Michelle Waldon stated that unless the bricks are set in mortar, there will always be movement and heaving.  A nice alternative to the all brick sidewalk is to pour a concrete sidewalk with a brick band set in mortar and laid in an attractive pattern.  

Additional topics:  a problem with the curbs in front of the check cashers on Columbia Rd close to Dudley and inadequate street lighting.

After touring some of the Upham's Corner Business District, the group agreed to convene again in 3-4 weeks.  Tim McCarthy committed to following up on Public Works issues after the snow melts.  Since many of the issues identified belong to Inspectional Services, they will be invited to the next walk through. 
Flavio Daveiga emphasized the importance of forming a Merchants Group which he believes needs to have a chance to provide input on business district priorities.  Nancy Conrad agreed with this.  You can try to "improve" the overall appearance of a business district so as to attract more customers but if the Upham's Corner "game" is made up of players who don't even know their own names, it's tough to feel a sense of group ownership, group participation and group synergy.

She suggested creating a roster of business information including business name, contact info and business owner(s) / manager(s) that we could pass out to everyone (though some of the merchants don't speak English).  Business owners need to be able to walk up to other business owners to join together to work on similar issues or similar goals/visions.  If a new business comes into Upham's Corner, how do we communicate expectations and responsibilities?

There's also the BRA planning initiative for Upham's Corner.  According to Jeremy Rosenberger of the BRA, they will want to get input directly from the merchants.  A Merchant Group could certainly help funnel the right information.

Flavio also raised the point that merchants can't "do it all."  It is a co-responsibility - merchants and customers - that is needed to maintain the quality of the business district.

Nancy Conrad agreed to work with Flavio to getting a merchants group started.

A Few of the "Hotspots" discussed at the Neighbhorhood Walk-thru

Let's imagine that Upham's Corner is really a neighborhood in Brookline or Concord or Beacon Hill.  Do we really believe that the conditions shown in the photos below would be tolerated? 

Absolutely not.  Let's we, as a community, band together to put pressure on our government, ourselves as members of the community and on the businesses to make Upham's Corner shine.

St. Mary's retaining wall on Stoughton St in deteriorated condition
St Mary's Retaining Wall
Mortar badly deteriorated - no longer securing the blocks
St Mary's Retaining Wall
Foam used to fill the voids

St Mary's Retaining Wall
Stones have fallen out

St Mary's Retaining Wall
More missing blocks at stairwell
Church Alley
The alley between the Church and the hair salon of Dudley Street (approx 765) belongs to the Church
but they say it doesn't, that the Fire Department owns it (a sign says:  Fire Lane).
Some people in the neighborhood use the back of the alley for "sleeping under blankets" and urination. 
It is in the best interests of the Business District to block off the alley.
See photos below.

Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: HotspotsNeighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
This needy pedestrian crossed Dudley St, walked to the back of the alley
and "hid" behind the abandoned shopping carriage. 
He turned around while in the act and posed for the camera,
zipped himself up and returned to waiting for the bus.
Business Owners helping out, but . . .
Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
Trash can put out by Camilo Liquors
Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
Trash Can put out by Nevarez Clothing Gear

Two businesses on Dudley Street between Monadnock St and Virginia St have put
trash cans out to encourage cleanliness in front of their businesses. 
Trouble is: It's against code to lock them onto City property. 
But if they aren't locked, they will get stolen.  What to do!!

According to Tim McCarthy, if anyone (Code Enforcement) were to ticket
these businesses while they are trying to help out,
the Mayor would step in.  "Don't worry," he said.
Columbia Road curb deteriorated
Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: HotspotsNeighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
A large section of the curb is missing.  What should be a solid granite curb
appears to be a build-up of a prior layer of curbing done with reinforced concrete. 
The original granite curb is now visible with rebar extending on either side from the poured concrete.
This type of adaptation does not last - the entire curb is in a state of deterioration.

Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
View of same area
Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
The poured concrete curb is not holding up
New York Fried Chicken
Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
The railing leading downstairs is unsafe. 
It would be easy for a young child to walk through the railing
and plunge straight down.

Also this area needs to be barricaded off.
We watched a man leave his car, go down the stairs
and start to urinate until we told him
(in no uncertain terms) to leave. 
Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
Trash is stacked on the side of building in full view.
Unsightly, the trash significantly detracts
from the appearance of the neighborhood.

This is across the street from the Strand Theatre.

Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
The "dark shadow" where the asphalt meets the sidewalk
is the result of staff throwing their floor cleaning
wash water out every night directly into the street. 
Overall condition of property is poor.
Neighborhood Services Walk-thru: Hotspots
Trash is allowed to accumulate for days
at the bottom of the stairwell. 
Notice the partially opened door -
easy for rodents and insects to enter.

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