The latest effort to revitalize Framingham’s downtown area took a giant step forward last night when Framingham Downtown Renaissance gave the Board of Selectmen an upbeat snapshot of the town center’s business climate.
Three Framingham State University students reported findings of a survey they conducted among downtown businesses during the summer.
Kelly Farrell, a senior at the University, told Framingham Selectmen that 369 businesses responded to the survey, which covered types of businesses in the 1.5 square-mile downtown district; what languages were spoken at the businesses; employment; issues with crime; and things the town could do to help downtown businesses.
“Now we have information that we can use to assist businesses,” said Dale Hamel, president of the FDR Board of Directors and senior vice president Office of Administration, Finance and Technology at the University.
“We reached out to the faculty and they are ready to seize the opportunity to help,” said Hamel. He indicated the university is working with individual faculty members to determine how to incorporate FDR projects into their courses.
Framingham Downtown Renaissance describes itself as “…a broad-based coalition of community groups that has a mandate to strengthen economic development in downtown Framingham and the surrounding area.”
FDR’s mission, which can be found on its web site, www.downtownframingham.org, states: “To promote, communicate and facilitate downtown Framingham revitalization through collaboration of business owners, residents, non-profits and community activists representing organizations supporting a shared vision.”
About a third of the businesses surveyed (123) said they would welcome the town’s help in marketing the downtown area, while 68 businesses said they could use some help with permits and regulations.
“Many businesses said they would improve their properties and do things to their business if they knew how to go about it,” said Walter Burke, a recent Framingham State graduate.
The selectmen praised Burke, Farrell and Rachael Drywa, a senior at the University, for the work they put into the project and the quality of their research.
Some of the Framingham Downtown Renaissance’s findings:
- There are 627 businesses in downtown Framingham.
- Downtown Framingham has 46 non-profits.
- Almost half the businesses are located in Zone 1, an area east of Concord Street and bounded by Route 135 to the south.
- The automotive sector accounts for 15 percent of the downtown businesses with health care second at 11 percent and financial, legal and real estate businesses third at 10 percent.
- English is spoken at 99 percent of the downtown businesses; Portuguese at 47 percent and Spanish at 42 percent.
- Downtown businesses employ about 4,400 persons, with 3,534 of those employees full time.
- The biggest problem businesses downtown face is traffic, with customer parking the second biggest problem.
- Crime does not seem to be a major issue downtown and 60 percent of businesses said they have reported incidents to the police.
- Supermarkets and chain restaurants were the most requested types of businesses that would be welcome downtown.
Framingham Downtown Renaissance is currently raising funds to hire a full time professional, open an office and secure a National Trust Main Street designation.