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Centers of attention

Posted by Ralph Ranalli September 30, 2007 09:21 AM

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Wellesley Planning Director Rick Brown with the Linden Square project.
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

REGION

Lincoln's town center is hardly a hotbed of activity. A speed bump greets visitors driving in on the main drag.

Yet last week, a developer broke ground on a $7 million project to renovate a local shopping center and erect a 2 1/2 story building in this no-stoplight downtown. There are even plans for a restaurant, with the town's first-ever liquor license.

"Everyone's a little nervous," said Cathy Jahrling, one of the few customers grocery shopping at Donelan's Market in the town center on a recent morning. "Change doesn't come easily to Lincoln."

The same could be said of many New England cities and towns, yet change is on the way. In Franklin, Westborough, Marlborough, and other communities, private developers are building multimillion-dollar projects aimed at recreating downtown centers, often in their own image, staff writer Megan Woolhouse reports in today's Globe West. The goal of some of the projects is to mimic the look and feel of a New England village, creating space for merchants, new apartments, and even new public commons.

The investment is anything but common. In Franklin, there is $28 million in construction. A Westborough developer won't disclose the cost of its 23-acre downtown redevelopment project, except to say it is in the tens of millions.

The changes don't come without public debate. Downtowns are often the psychological epicenter of their communities. In Newton, a city task force has been at odds for months over how to redevelop that city's center.

Read more about the push to revitalize town centers in today's Globe West.

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