By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
In what is likely to be the start of a very long and public process for reshaping and growing Everett’s downtown, the Everett City Council on Monday heard from the Everett Planning and Development department and the City’s consultants about ways in which the City of Everett could make Everett Square more vibrant and pedestrian friendly, while clearing the way for reinvestment and growth in the city’s downtown area.
“This was just the start of the process, we’ll be hearing more about this and it seems that they’re proposing that we do this in phases,” said Councilor John Leo McKinnon, who was acting Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
The architecture and urban design firm Utile Inc. of Boston, led a presentation to the Council’s Committee of the Whole, during which time the consultants and city transportation planner Jay Monty outlined the results of Utile’s project in Everett.
Among the many recommendations that are being made to the City are recommendations for improving access to parking around Everett Square, improving the public open spaces in the square and changes to downtown zoning to unlock development potential in several parcels that are underutilized and show promise for redevelopment and residential density in a more vibrant downtown.
According to Utile architect Tim Love and Utile Transportation Planner Jessica Robertson, the study area included all of Broadway from the site of the old Everett High School down to Route 16 and two to three blocks to the east and west of Broadway. However, the main focus of the recommendations is on the area surrounding Broadway at the intersection of Chelsea and Norwood Streets – or Everett Square proper.
Due to the scope and reach of the project, it would likely be phased with Phase 1 of the project including the publicly owned land, such as space in the Square and the public parking lots. After each phase of the project the Council suggested that the City conduct an updated traffic and parking analysis to ensure that the improvements are working as planned.
Utile outlined improvements to the traffic pattern and pedestrian spaces such as crosswalks and sidewalks, but also called for improving access to parking lots immediately adjacent to the Everett Square area and redevelopment of four sites including the current site of the Rite Aid on Broadway, the Bank of America parking lot on Chelsea Street, as well as the vacant city owned lot that sits at the edge of School Street and Everett Square.
An extension of Union Street through the City parking lots and around to Norwood Street would help in defining entrances to the lots and help with the flow of traffic. Additionally, it would eliminate the jaunt at the 9/11 Fountain that connects to School Street – making that more of a traditional intersection with a pedestrian shared-use slow space. Doing that would also allow the City to create more open space in the Square and to create new developable lot for mixed-use residential next to Brazza Grille.
The plan also recommends a redesign of the walking plaza adjacent to the Parlin Library and relocation of several existing features, such as the fountain, to take better advantage of square and create more utility for visitors there.
A separate feature of the plan calls for the widening of the sidewalks on the north side of Norwood Street to create opportunities for outdoor dining there and extend the plaza experience in Everett Square to the side street.
According to the design team, Paul Scapicchio of the Novus Group assisted the design team with public outreach and garnering public input to the plan.
The study by Utile was funded by the City Council through the Capital Improvement Plan in 2013.