Wednesday, October 1, 2008
I'll have a small decaf with that
I confess that a little cloud of depression descends over me every time I drive this block of Washington Street. I mean, this is the gateway to our town. This is what people see before they see the river, the Main Street, the university. Can't we do better?
Looks like we just did.
These fabulous trees were just planted on Washington Street outside the new Dunkin Donuts building, between Walgreens and the Marvelous Car Wash. These aren't the meek little trees that are typically planted in town -- the ones that look like they were chosen because they'll never grow big enough to challenge the phone wires. These trees look like they plan to stay awhile.
This part of town is traditionally called "Gasoline Alley", but can you imagine if every landowner on this strip followed this example and planted signficant trees in the tree lawn?
Why, it would look like...like...New England!
Even the building is a cut above the usual strip-mall box. I asked Director of Planning Bill Warner how this much-improved design came about. He gave all the credit to the Design Review and Preservation Board, which, although it is only advisory to the Planning and Zoning Commission, looks at the design for every commercial building in these areas, and goes back and forth with the developers about their plans. I have long wished that this Board had more authority, and stricter guidelines about what kind of materials they require from the developers (and political support when they push for better design!) I can't count how many times I've heard someone in town say "How come the fast food restaurants in Freeport, Maine look so nice, and ours don't?" Well, the answer has to do with how much teeth the local design review has. And of course, how much extra a developer is willing to do before they just move on to the next town.
If you accept that we are going to have car-oriented development in town (a debate for another time), this is a better solution than naked concrete cubes at the back of a sea of asphalt. Many thanks to the developer and design review for thinking outside the Box. To my Eye, this is a step in the right direction.