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Return of Historic Features Being Considered for Downtown Hamilton

Community Preservation Act money could be used to recreate historic features in downtown Hamilton.

Several vestiges of history could be returning to downtown Hamilton if voters OK a plan to use Community Preservation Act money to install benches, gas lanterns and plant trees.

“There is really a lot of history in Hamilton that someone who is newer to town would have no idea about,” said Selectman Jeff Hubbard, who has been pushing the plan to return some of the features of the downtown that were commonplace 100 years ago.

This week, Hubbard presented a plan to the full Board of Selectmen outlining the plan to install gas lanterns, install benches, plant trees and install an archway (similar to the one at the ) highlighting the pedestrian walkway that connects the Shoppes at Hamilton Crossing to the area between and .

“I like the concept and I like the idea,” said Selectman Jeff Stinson said, adding he wanted to start small.

“I say let’s get going,” said Selectman Chairman Jennifer Scuteri.

Hubbard has been pushing to fund the improvements through the historical category from the CPA, which is money collected from a property tax surcharge. The other categories are recreation and affordable housing. No exact cost has been determined for the work, but it estimated to be about $90,000. It would come from the existing CPA fund and not affect the tax rate under Hubbard's proposal.

“By doing something good downtown, it is going to increase all of our real estate values,” Hubbard said. The changes could help achieve a “healthy and thriving downtown.”

The improvements could help increase downtown property values that would, in turn, stimulate further interest where “people will want to buy land and not store snow shovels and logs on it,” Hubbard said.

The town has also collected about $50,000 in local meals tax money. The downtown merchants association in developing a list of prioritized ideas to use the money.

Hubbard said planting tree along Railroad Avenue would help make the area cooler in the summer. And benches used to be commonplace in the downtown as people waited for the train to arrive.

“These benches were the Facebook of 100 years ago,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard will also discuss the plan again on Thursday when the Community Preservation Committee meets with the Board of Selectmen at 7:30 p.m. on . The CPC would have to approve the plan before putting it before Annual Town Meeting voters in May.

Hubbard said he would continue to solicit feedback about whether residents favor the changes and whether they want CPA money to fund the work.

“It would give Railroad Avenue something it doesn’t have,” said Ed Brown, a Hamilton resident and small business owner in Essex, talking about the plan for gas lanterns. He said Newton funded street lighting with CPA money.

Jay Burnham March 12, 2012 at 11:12 AM
R. Pizzano...Thank you for that information. I stand corrected about Reading. It appears we are in a better place than I thought, having already collected sufficient funds from Hamilton's membership in CPA to perhaps accomplish the same level of improvement that required additional funding in Reading. That's a positive note.
Ron Powell March 12, 2012 at 03:04 PM
I probably could have been clearer with my earlier comment. I did not mean to imply that Reading used CPA funding, we used smart growth funds. The point that I was trying to make is the one that Jay just made -- that Hamilton is in a better position because of its CPA membership. I think that the relevant questions are: 1) Will the project benefit residents and local businesses? It will. 2) Is the CPA an appropriate funding source for the project? It is. 3) Are there other communities that have undertaken similar projects? They have.
Ron Powell March 12, 2012 at 04:30 PM
The plan returns some of the features of the downtown that were commonplace 100 years ago. That's the part that makes it culturally and historically significant. That the plan will probably increase pedestrian traffic near local businesses would be a side benefit. This is a plan that achieves both.
David Branga January 11, 2013 at 08:08 PM
Hi Ron - I am a Reading resident and was just installed as the new Postmaster of Hamilton. I can attest to what a good job was done downtown. I would love to see something like that happen here.
Ron Powell January 12, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Congratulations on your new appointment, David. I'm sure that you will find that Hamilton residents are proud of their town, and rightfully so. It's a lovely town with beautiful open spaces and good, friendly people. Reading is a well-managed town, and though my role was very small, I am forever grateful for the opportunity that I had to assist in the planning for the Common in Reading.

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