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Downtown Streetscapes Working Group

The Downtown Streetscape Committee was formed in December 2012 to provide guidance and make recommendations to the Needham Board of Selectmen regarding improvements and changes to the streetscape in Needham Center. The overall goal is to improve the logistics of downtown vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and to make the street-level experience in the downtown more enjoyable, user-friendly, and attractive to both businesses and residents. The preliminary design plan should be completed around July, 2013.

Residents’ comments and ideas are welcome and important. Use our Comment feature, below, to offer your suggestions. We’ll assemble the comments we receive and send them along to the committee.

The formation of this committee follows on the development of downtown design guidelines and the changes to the downtown zoning that have taken place over the past 15+ years. The Committee will focus on the following elements in its deliberations:

  • Design – composition, architecture, historic preservation, usability
  • Accessibility – handicap access, bicycle and pedestrian access/safety
  • Traffic and parking control – traffic flow, signal upgrades and coordination, parking availability, snow removal, maintainability
  • Safety – lighting, signage, special event accommodations
  • Amenities and attraction – landscaping, street furniture, street-level amenities (broader sidewalks, seating, etc)

The committee consists of twelve members, including representatives of town boards, and downtown business and property owners. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meetings of the Working Group and to provide comment, feedback and suggestions. Meeting schedules, meeting minutes, the group member list, and other documents are available here on the Town’s website.

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3 Comments

  1. Beth Shulman says:

    I would love to have a safer biking experience going through the downtown. I find that the metered parking on Great Plain Ave with the all the cars doesn’t leave any room for bikers. The current set-up is scary for bikers with the constant risk of being hit by a car door opening. Once you get out of the center of town you can finally take a breath that you have survived without incident. I agree with Anne. More bike racks around town would be welcome!

  2. Anne Hayek says:

    I think the biggest improvement which could be made is the systematic installation of deciduous trees to shade the pedestrians on the sidewalks in the summers, resulting in the the feel of an inviting park: from Needham Heights to Needham Junction, from the YMCA pool to the Needham Congregational Church, and both sides of the streets along those corridors. The “saplings” on Chestnut St and Chapel St are a token effort (temporary, I hope) but don’t capture the sun’s rays and cool the sidewalk to the effect a largeerC shade tree would. This may mean moving underground utilities which are poorly located under the sidewalk…

    Secondly, I would like to see bike lanes routed to and through downtown along with small bike racks located on the sidewalks conveniently to businesses and restaurants, interspersed between the parking meters and parallel to the street. The bike lanes need to be safe for families in the downtown area, or the latter will be up on the sidewalks with young bikers. For the moment, the only bike rack in the Center is behind CVS. The one in the square is esthetic but not usable except on the ends, to which you can attach your frame. More bike racks with a shelter at commuter rail stations, starting with Needham Center, to alleviate some car traffic and encourage bikers to bike to the train, would also be beneficial.

  3. Benjamin Gregg says:

    When walking or biking in downtown Needham the main thing you do is cross streets. It’s a fairly dense traffic experience and I feel like no amount of benches is going to change this. I think it would be interesting to see if it would be feasible to make Chapel one-way south and Highland one-way north. Traffic south could direct through School Street. I think if you don’t make a larger move to create a larger pedestrian area with somewhat less traffic the downtown will always be noisy and the main thing we will do there is look both ways rather than enjoy the town. Big move good, small move is likely the same as no move.