By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – In the early 2000s, the town of Shrewsbury and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MDOT) began improvements along Route 9, creating medians, sidewalks and crosswalks, planting trees and plants, and doing utility work.
In 2010, a few local business owners got together with the goal to raise money for landscaping and upkeep of the area of Route 9 between the Burns Bridge and the Oak Street intersection.
“Mass DOT created landscaping on business properties, but won’t maintain it,” explained Town Planner Kristen Las. “We wanted to keep the retail area looking nice to attract customers and new businesses.”
That small group of business owners became the nonprofit Lakeway Business District Association (LBDA), now with 57 members.
Las is also a member of the LBDA Board of Directors, along with many who have been involved since the very beginning, including President Jay Thomas and Treasurer Maria Lemieux.
“Our hope is to keep growing,” Lemieux said. “Our goal is to get everyone involved.”
The association holds an annual membership drive from January to March. Lemieux noted that new businesses are expected to move into Fairlawn Plaza (former Price Chopper), the new Lakeway Commons, and the former Spag’s property.
“Hopefully the district is on the upswing with these new developments,” Thomas said. “We all have a vested interest in keeping the district looking good.”
Ninety-nine percent of the organization’s funding comes through membership and sponsorship.
One of the challenges, Las noted, is reaching out to larger chain stores that are not based in town because local managers often do not have the authority to join a local association and pay membership dues.
“It is a good thing for those businesses, too, even though they are not locally owned,” Las said. “It builds a good relationship with other businesses.”
Las and Town Engineer Jeff Howland are both on the LBDA board as non-voting members. Their involvement allows the LBDA to “keep informed about new developments in the district and throughout town,” Thomas remarked.
According to Las, the town is very supportive of the group.
They often invite town or state officials to their monthly meetings to provide updates and important information. Recently, representatives from the MDOT gave a presentation on the Burns Bridge renovation project.
And last winter, the LBDA was able to meet with the town to work out problems with plowing and clearing sidewalks.
“We give our input as representatives of district,” Lemieux said. “We can voice our concerns as a group.”
The LBDA reaches out to the community through door-to-door campaigns, a recent television commercial, and town-wide events such as the upcoming Spirit of Shrewsbury festival. At their booth, they will be distributing their walking maps of the Lakeway District with members’ contact information.
“The association has grown and is growing,” Thomas said. “We want to get more businesses in the district involved.”
They also want to be able to contribute to the community in the form of donations and scholarships to local students.
“Giving back to the community is the ultimate goal,” he said. “We’re getting there.”
For more information, visit thelakeway.org.