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Lakeway Business District Association returns focus to Route 9 corridor

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Shrewsbury – With one eye on the recent successes of a nearby business district and the other on the rich history and tradition of its location, the Lakeway Business District Association (LBDA) officially launched itself March 16 with an open forum at Gaston Art & Frame, 257 Boston Turnpike.

“It all started with the fact that the state came in and did the landscape design for the median strip along Route 9 over,” LBDA Chair Joseph “Jay” Thomas Jr. said. “But the state doesn’t maintain it. So in order to keep it nice and not let it get grown over, my father and I thought we would get a group of business owners together and raise funds to maintain the landscaping.”

Two of the local business people that Thomas contacted were John Gaston, owner of Gaston Art & Frame, and Maria Lemieux, owner of Nardella Realty, 298 Boston Turnpike.

“I think what Maria and I saw was an opportunity to promote our business corridor and make it similar to what they’ve done with Shrewsbury Street in Worcester,” Gaston said. “Shrewsbury Street went through the exact same thing several years ago – the state came in, tore up the median and replaced it in conjunction with fixing the roads, and then left town and told the merchants on the street that it was their responsibility to maintain.

“So they formed a neighborhood business association and it has really taken off , and all the businesses on that street are better for it,” Gaston said. “They have fund-raisers, they have the Taste of Shrewsbury Street, they have a lot of celebrations where they get all the businesses involved – that’s what we want.”

So, Thomas and Gaston and Lemieux got together and decided to form the LBDA, not only to raise money for the landscaping, but to unify the more than 200 businesses along the two-mile stretch of Route 9 that runs from the Lake Quinsigamond bridge to Oak Street, and to jointly market the area and the area businesses, a cross-pollination of sorts.

“At the end of the day I think we decided to use the need to raise money for landscaping upkeep as an opportunity to put some marketing together and really show off the area like they did in the old days,” Lemieux said.

The old days that Lemieux referred to were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when Spag’s brought people down Route 9 to the town from as far away as Boston to the east and Springfield to the west.

Because of such traffic , and the fact that back then Route 9 was the preferred road of many to get from central Massachusetts to Boston, the Boston Turnpike Association (BTA) was formed.

“The BTA was a very big part of the development of this area back in the day,” State Rep. Karyn E. Polito (R-Shrewsbury), a lifelong Shrewsbury resident and member of the LBDA board of directors, said. “My grandfather was a member and my father was a member. This area, in its heyday, when Spag’s was here, was called the ‘million dollar mile.’ People from all over New England would come to Spag’s and visit Route 9.

“Now things have changed. This is a new generation of business owners and a new opportunity for Shrewsbury to grow its commercial tax base. I felt it was very important the infrastructure be improved, and seeking the funds to make the beautification project possible was an important project for me.”

About 50 fellow business owners attended the LBDA’s meet and greet at Gaston Art & Frame March 16. Thomas said that more than 300 business and property owners along Route 9 from the bridge to Oak Street received a letter inviting them to join. To date, Thomas said, about 30 have signed up as either members ($75 annually) or sponsors ($500). Thomas said about half have signed up as sponsors, half as members.

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=6731

Posted by on Mar 26 2010. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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