Walking across the train station parking lot, John Stagnone, Chairman of the Board of Selectman, pointed to the building that used to house a Dunkin Donuts on Porter Street next to the Post Office and said to , “Ever see a Dunkin Donuts close?”
With many vacant, or in some cases, dilapidated storefronts and buildings, Stagnone said the “economy has hit the downtown hard.” Town officials are looking into ways to start to give this area of Stoughton a much-needed facelift.
Congressman Lynch (D-South Boston) joined Stagnone and about a dozen Stoughton leaders and representatives for a tour of the center of town and a roundtable discussion about Tuesday morning.
Lynch said that the tour of the downtown made it clear that the key parcels—the Post Office and train station—are controlled by outside agencies and will have to be addressed in any plans to improve the area.
Part of the preliminary proposals for a downtown facelift include looking into the possibility of relocating the distribution center behind the Post Office, with the understanding that it would be more beneficial to use this distribution space for other purposes. Stagnone also cited the desire to see the train station reopen and use it as retail or office space.
“We have to solve those big pieces before we can figure out what we can do with the redesign that John [Stagnone] and the committee and [Town Manager] Frank Crimmins and everybody else has talked about,” Lynch said during the roundtable talk.
“Everything else that happens after that is going to depend on how the Post Office and how the MBTA respond,” Lynch added later in the talk.
Other potential plans involve extending Rose Street one block from its current terminus at Porter Street to Wyman Street, with the extension of the road essentially running through the current train station parking lot.
There have also been talks of renovating and reopening the State Theatre (a.k.a. The Stoughton Cinema Pub) to help spark the downtown’s revitalization.
Lynch, however, said the Post Office and train station come first.
“The Theatre is certainly an important piece of this, but everything doesn’t depend on the theatre and I think there are a number of options we can take with respect to that, but I would say for the traffic flow plan that you have, the idea of bringing more people into the downtown area, it does depend on the Post Office and it does depend on the MBTA,” Lynch said.
“So those are critical pieces to get right and fortunately those are areas I think both [State Representatives Louis Kafka and William Galvin] and myself can be helpful.”
State Representatives William C. Galvin (D-Canton) and Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton), as well as Town Manager Francis T. Crimmins, Jr., Selectmen John Anderson, John Anzivino, Steve Anastos and Cynthia Walsh; Finance Committee Chair Holly Boykin; Redevelopment Authority Chairman Barry Crimmins; Planning Board Chairman Joe Scardino; and Rick Kaplan of the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce, as well as members of the media, joined Lynch and Stagnone on the tour and for the roundtable discussion.
The group walked from the Town Hall to Washington Street to Wyman Street to Porter Street and back to the Town Hall, with stops at the and the . Selectman Stagnone gave the group a tour of the inside of the State Theatre.
Lynch said that with the current year ban on earmarks it limits his ability to say he wants to spend money on a certain project.
“Until that is relaxed that avenue is not open to me. I’m happy to continue to work with you,” Lynch said. “The grant option is still open, but there are a certain number of hoops you have to jump through to qualify for that.”
Lynch said that getting the theatre restoration funded through an Economic Development grant would require the building being included on the Federal Register, a process which can take up to a year-and-a-half or two years to do.
It also appears the town and its negotiations with the MBTA in regard to leasing the train station have hit a snag. When asked about the negotiations Crimmins said, “I would say for the foreseeable future they would have to change their material terms.”
Stagnone said the purposes of Tuesday’s visit was to spur discussion about improving the downtown.
“We’re trying to plant the seeds so when times are better this is actually going to turn into a reality, and that’s the beginning of this,” Stagnone said during the roundtable talks.
Following the meeting, Stagnone said that he was pleased with how it went. “The Congressman is obviously very aware of what our discussions are. He’s willing to help us,” he said. “We’re looking forward to future meetings.”
Watch the roundtable discussion and view preliminary plans for a downtown facelift in the media gallery above. To see more photos of Congressman Lynch’s visit, click .