By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Shrewsbury – For the last two years, representatives from businesses along an approximate mile-long segment of Route 9 in Shrewsbury have banded together in an effort to beautify the road's medians and to help market and promote the local economy. The non-profit Lakeway? Business District Association (LBDA) as they are known, currently is composed of approximately 40 businesses from Oak Street right up to the Kenneth F.? Burns Bridge, which connects Shrewsbury to Worcester via Route 9.
But now that the bridge replacement project has finally started, the LBDA is also concentrating its efforts on assuring customers that the project will not adversely impact businesses in the area. Rather, the members say, customers should feel comfortable that “everything is business as usual.”
At the Aug. 27 LBDA board meeting those members, as well as town officials in attendance, discussed the need to stress to the public that local businesses will not come to a standstill or even have reduced hours as the bridge work proceeds.
Shrewsbury Town Planner Kristen Las said town officials have weekly meetings with the Mass. Department of Transportation (MassDOT) officials regarding the project. Those officials have assured that they will stay in constant communication with all concerned regarding the progress of the work and of any delays, she said.
Shrewsbury Town Engineer Jack Perreault noted that MassDOT officials have also said that the bulk of the work that needs to be done on the bridge itself will be done after 9 p.m. Most preliminary work will be staged from the water during the day.
“But the tough part is the perception that the roads will be adversely affected even during the day,” he acknowledged. “But MassDOT has heard loud and clear from us that this can's impact traffic. So they have agreed that there will be two lanes of traffic in each direction [going over the bridge] at all times.”
The LBDA, formed in February 2010, is open to all businesses in the district. The concept was originally conceived as part of the town's master plan, Perreault said. As such, changes were made to the town's zoning in an attempt to make the area more “inviting and flexible.” As neither the town nor the state had funding to pay for things such as landscaping improvements, the LBDA, under the leadership of Jay Thomas, was formed.
Now, board member Alice Johnson said, the group also serves as an unified voice to lobby for issues with town and state officials on matters such as snow removal.
Board member Mary Frances Rozak agreed.
“We are really advocates for the district,” she said. “We’d like to encourage other businesses in the area to join us. It's important for all of the businesses to work together, especially to create a pedestrian friendly zone. That will only benefit us all.”
One recently completed initiative was the creation of a walking map noting the locations of the LBDA's current members. ?Copies were distributed to those businesses as well as town offices during the US Rowing Nationals which were held on Lake Quinsigamond Aug. 9 – Aug. 12.
LBDA Treasurer Maria Lemieux, who helped to create the map, said the overall feedback on the map was “excellent.” She added that the map is also currently available on the group's website, www.thelakeway.org.
Businesses interested in joining the LBDA can also find membership information on the website.