Stop Durkee St. Development: Invest in Existing Buildings, Businesses, and Infrastructure!

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The fate of our downtown is in jeopardy. The city and state are proceeding with plans to turn the Durkee Street parking lot into a mixed-use development even though there has been little to no evidence of public support for the project all along.


The mixed-use development on Durkee Street has received the largest share of the city’s ten-million-dollar Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) grant--$4.3M—even though the public has expressed serious concerns about the project and has repeatedly called for the DRI to be invested wisely in many smaller bets spread throughout downtown, including our existing buildings which are underutilized and in dire need of rehabilitation.  Click here to see a comparison of public votes to funding decisions.


The plan to replace parking at the Durkee Street lot with a privately owned mixed-use development poses a serious threat to small businesses that rely on the city’s largest parking lot for convenient access to their stores. As it stands, the lot’s 320 spaces will only be replaced with 91 new spaces created on Durkee Street and Bridge Street. Although additional parking spaces will be created on Court Street and Margaret Street, there has not been a careful study of the impact this parking overhaul will have on businesses and residences that rely on parking in the immediate Durkee Street area.


Furthermore, large-scale developments like what is proposed on Durkee Street have a history of failure and of not living up to their promises. We need only look to Dock Street in our city where a $14M hotel and conference center only resulted in a $1.3M parking lot to nowhere. The public has understood this all along and has opted to diversify the DRI investment into many smaller bets that directly benefit the community rather than benefiting a large developer recruited from outside of our region.


Public support for any development is crucial. Members of the public live in our community, have a vested interest in how the city grows, and have a deep understanding of what works and does not in our city because they experience it every day. By contrast, consultants and developers from outside our region do not possess this local knowledge and don’t have to live with the consequences of their actions if their plans fall through or go awry.


Public support is also essential because development grants such as the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) are public tax dollars being put to work to develop public land for the benefit of the public—shouldn’t we, the public, control how we use our money in our city?


By signing the following, we petition the city and the state to stop the Durkee Street mixed-use development and to reallocate $4.3M in DRI funding into projects the public actually wants, to be determined by a properly participatory planning process.


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