August 11th, 2011

a Sense of Place

While my overall project is to understand the job market/economy of the future, I've become completely mired in trying to understand what I suppose might be called trends in property development. I switch between Greater Boston and Greater Seattle, because I know the latter best, but live in the former. I'm constantly testing little theories I have about what might happen with housing or retail or whatever against what is currently happening in some neighborhood I haven't checked in on in five years (or ever) -- so far, I'm running behind still, which is good because it means the theories are sound. I'm just behind. As an example, when I was trying to figure out why such massive developments are happening in Ballard, it occurred to me that things should be ticking along in Maple Leaf. Boy was I surprised what people are getting there for teeny tiny houses from the 1930s. Pretty, lovely teeny, tiny houses from the 1930s, but still. But before I get sidetracked further onto the subject of Maple Leaf Commons, B. mentions to me that Framingham's selectmen have been talking about eminent domain if the property owners of a couple strip malls don't start responding to overtures about their blighted (but not entirely vacant) properties. This sounded really remarkable, until a little googling determined that Framingham selectmen have more or less this exact same conversation every year or so about the exact same properties. I don't think this is going to get too dire for the property owners for a while yet, but you never know.

The comments thread on a related post was vile: the usual they-should-just-raze the place was paired with anti-immigrant sentiment. However, someone compared the selectmen's suggestion of building mixed use on the site (what I would have thought of, but hey, look where I come from, right?) to "Dennison", saying look-how-that-turned-out. Well, much like the Natick mall condos (also mentioned), Dennison Triangle suffered from poor timing with the crash; the condos are being rented, and the rents they are asking are reasonable (the commenters don't think so, but they're crazy -- altho it looks like there's some availability which suggests maybe not so crazy).

One way or the other, I wound up at an excellent blog:

http://www.thisisframingham.com

Dominated by restaurant reviews (with really good pictures), the blogger notices businesses coming and going in a way that gives a sense of the ebb and flow of business between downtown and Rte 9 that would probably not be possible to convey in a more pleasant way.

In my mind, Framingham is always the place that has instances of the shops that I want to visit -- but the get-stuck-in-traffic risk means I often choose instead to order online or go a little further out along Rte 2, rather than go in towards Framingham (proof that I have indeed been turned into a zombie by life in the 'burbs). Well, that is, when I don't immediately think of that longitudinal study that was "Framingham" before I even knew where Framingham was. But it's really nice to start to develop the sense of place here that I have had for so long in the place where I spent over 30 years.