April was an exciting month for Framingham, the Commonwealth’s newest city, as an important milestone for its downtown redevelopment was achieved and the city’s newly-elected – and inaugural – mayor, Dr. Yvonne Spicer, had the opportunity to lay out her economic vision to Framingham’s business community.
On Tuesday, April 3rd, Wood Partners, a national leader in real estate development and construction, celebrated the groundbreaking of Alta Union House, which is the first large-scale development to be built in Framingham’s Downtown in decades. Mayor Spicer was joined by Mike Gatlin, chair of Framingham’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC), City Councilor Cheryl Tully Stoll and Wood Partners Director Jim Lambert at the event.
Alta Union House will include 196 rental units, 20 of which will be designated as affordable housing and will include 2,600 square feet of ground-level retail space. “I can tell you – you have picked the right place to grow. Framingham is a city on the move, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Mayor Spicer in her remarks at the event. It is this growth that brought Wood Partners to Framingham. “Downtown Framingham is full of exciting possibilities,” said Jim Lambert, Wood Partners Director. “This is a welcoming place for us to do business, and we know it will be a wonderful place for our residents to live, work and play. It has a unique and exciting blend of economic opportunity, cultural diversity, urban amenities, but with a small-town feel.”
In 2015, Special Town Meeting members voted overwhelmingly to support zoning changes to Framingham’s Central Business District with the goal to make Downtown Framingham an attractive, vibrant, diverse center that will be a hub of economic activity for the MetroWest region. Previous zoning laws had discouraged developers from creating the kind of new units that appeal to young professionals and others who may otherwise be attracted to Framingham.
The rezoning has been critical to encouraging transit-oriented development (TOD) projects like Alta Union House. In addition to this project, Mill Creek’s Modera Framingham development at 266 Waverly Street, permitted for 270 new units of multifamily housing, is expected to begin demolition in the near future. Framingham’s Planning Board has also permitted 411 new units for downtown.
Two days later, Mayor Spicer outlined her economic development vision to more than 75 members of Framingham’s business community at an event at the Sheraton Framingham organized by the EDIC as part of an ongoing series of panel discussions and events as part of its Choose Framingham campaign.
“We’ve got great bones, we’ve got to build the meat on these bones,” said Mayor Spicer at the afternoon event, which also featured remarks from Mike Gatlin and Paul Joseph of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce.
After mentioning the Alta Union House groundbreaking and the fact that Framingham has permitted 877 units of housing, Mayor Spicer mentioned that she has seen an ebb and flow with regard to the downtown in the more than 30 years she’s lived in Framingham. She proclaimed the development activity as “exciting” and talked about the advantages that the city has, in terms of its location to both Boston and Worcester. She also discussed the city’s importance as an economic engine for the MetroWest region, saying “we are in a sweet spot” and pointing out that more 50,000 workers are employed at Framingham businesses.
Acknowledging that “economic development is a driver of our community,” Mayor Spicer also said that “of everything we do, my underlying question is always ‘how does it benefit Framingham?’”
Framingham has recently launched a comprehensive economic development plan that the city anticipates will help this new city grow even more. For more information, please visit www.chooseframingham.com, Like the Choose Framingham initiative on Facebook and Follow Choose Framingham on Twitter.