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No Salvation for downtown Framingham?

Framingham selectmen apparently feel that they can't revitalize downtown Framingham without moving the Salvation Army from its current building on a main street.

If this is true, Framingham selectmen apparently have no clue that there are a lot of other issues that have conspired to "unvitalize" downtown over the past 30 years. Like, oh, all those malls up on Rte. 9.

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Davis Square, a vital place by any standard, proudly boasts a Goodwill store at the end of the Elm Street retail strip. It's quite popular, even hip, and fits in well with the neighborhood. They have fun with their window displays, too. Someone from Framingham should check it out.

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The Goodwill should get any and all assistance from public bodies, since they're a non-sectarian group that helps people, mainly people with disabilities. The Salvation Army shouldn't receive any sorts of efforts to save their properties or anything, since they're a private group that refuses services or employment to GLBT individuals. And they ring bells, which are annoying.

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She gets into that issue. The Salvation Army has a thrift store as part of its building, but it's in the back, not right on Concord Street (then again, it's also right across from the Fabric Place, which is one of the few things that draws people into downtown Framingham from outside of the town). Maybe if they put the thrift store up front and moved the social services onto the side street. But even still, it's going to take a lot more than moving a thrift shop a few yards to pick up downtown Framingham.

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No offense intended to the reporter who wrote the story, but it's possible that selectmen talked about two dozen things needed to revitalize downtown Framingham, yet only the Salvation Army part got picked up because it's the best attention-grabber. I wasn't at the meeting, so I can't say.

Clearly much more is needed than either moving or reconfiguring the Salvation Army. Talk about moving (or attracting) any kind of business should be in the context of an overall vision and plan. What do planners want downtown Framingham to be? Who do they want to attract? What's the mix of serving the immediate neighborhood vs. drawing people from elsewhere in Framingham and from surrounding communities? What's the mix of retail/commerce/entertainment? But while any one individual step is not going 'revitalize' downtown Framingham, taking NO steps simply because one thing alone won't do it, isn't the answer either.

For instance, it gets me crazy when the Planning Board doesn't try to site development along Rte. 30 to be more pedestrian-friendly, since nothing else there is either. Had the one step been taken 15 years ago, we could have had Stop & Shop, BJs, the Target shopping center and Kohls all creating an attractive boulevard by now, attracting shoppers on foot from the nearby office buildings and apartments, instead of just more suburban sprawl.

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Perhaps we should take the priorities and plans of Framingham's selectmen with a grain of salt. I seem to recall not too long ago some grousing among Framingham's leaders about the influx of Brazilian immigrants, even though they are what's keeping the place lively these days.

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As far as I can tell, the Board of Selectmen has been welcoming to the Brazilian immigrant community. In fact, the selectmen's passage of a proclamation to that effect set off a storm of anger among an anti-immigration faction in town, because it didn't include wording that only law-abiding immigrants were welcome. (Few people demand adding "law-abiding" when selectmen pass other proclamations lauding various groups in town.) An anti-immigration candidate ran in the last local election, and lost by a wide margin; the two most progressive candidates in the race ended up winning.

A legitimate issue regarding some of the Brazilian businesses in town is that non-Brazilians don't feel welcome there. For example, there's a Brazilian bakery that some long-time locals are interested in patronizing, but much of the staff doesn't speak English. I'm OK with pointing at things and taking my chances, but not everyone feels comfortable doing that. Many non-Brazilians don't know what the goods are and would like to ask questions. This issue is easy enough to fix: Have someone create a bilingual "menu" describing some of the most popular products, with photos; someone not fluent in English could simply hand that to customers who don't speak Portuguese.

It's human nature not to want to be excluded from the group. There are easy ways to address this. For example, the little Columbian restaurant in Saxonville seems to be patronized both by Hispanics and non-Hispanics. The menu is bilingual, that's all it seemed to take.

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I stand corrected. I recalled something but couldn't track down the Globe story I'd read.

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