Tag Archives: somerstreets

SomerStreets Comes to East Somerville

After last month’s highly disappointing SomerStreets event in Ball Square, I was eagerly awaiting Sunday’s SomerStreets/FossFest event in East Somerville to see what lessons the city learned from that event. And they learned a lot.

There was no shortage of activities lining the blocked-off roadway. At Foss Park’s FossFest, there were several vendors, folks from the Open Air Circus giving stilt-walking lessons and live music. Festive flags were draped across the medians. State Police facilitated safe passage across McGrath Highway to main SomerStreets area, where many vendors and local businesses set out tables (highlights were the $5 pottery sale by Mudflat Studios, free Ethiopian food from Fasika and free Mexican food from Tapatio). Many stores had handmade signs proclaiming their support for SomerStreets. Dance exhibitions and lessons, face painting, a drum circle, party bike rides and hula hooping were all on the agenda. Families, bicyclists, even one acrobatic guy on roller skates all took to the streets. And who doesn’t love a parade?!

It was no ArtBeat, and the wide, mile-long expanse between Sullivan Station and Winter Hill is a challenging space to fill, but the community was definitely out in force, taking advantage of the closed roads and the activities on hand. Having East Somerville Main Streets as an organizing force that could better incorporate the surrounding community into the event was likely key to its success.

Somerville has reason to be optimistic about events like FossFest and SomerStreets. If there is one city that knows how to create great programming, it’s Somerville, and the growing pains from these relatively new events will surely get ironed out as the city keeps on doing what it does and the community becomes more aware and involved. And the fact that SomerStreets is non-Davis Square centric is fantastic. Davis is doing fine. Union Square is doing pretty good, too. Let’s celebrate all corners of this diverse city — there are wonderful things happening everywhere.

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SomerStreets

This afternoon, my husband and I had a lovely day out, visiting the “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” exhibit at the Museum of National Heritage in Lexington (which you should most definitely check out before it ends next Sunday), grabbing baked goods in Arlington Heights, getting burgers for lunch at Joe Sent Me and ice cream at J.P. Licks. (Yes, it was a very tasty Saturday.)

We then planned on visiting SomerStreets on our way home, eager to get our dose of fun Somerville community programming after missing the farmer’s market this morning. We saw a bunch of families taking in the jazz concert in Powderhouse Park, and ways down Broadway we saw the annual Family Fun Day at Trum Field drawing a good crowd. But in between?

This was around 3:45. Granted, the event ran from noon until five (flier 1 | flier 2 [.pdf]). But at the time we were there, we saw an extremely small number of people out and about between Trum and Powderhouse. As we walked down the sidewalk and wondered out loud what the deal was, a guy walked past us and snarked, “Your tax dollars at work.” Apparently.

The first Somerstreets event, last month in my neck of the woods in Winter Hill, was an apparent success. But while the programming bookending the SomerStreets area seemed to be going well, the vast, vacant boulevard separating the two hubs was a bit depressing. And the number of police on special details minding the road closures and directing traffic did make me think about how much it was costing to essentially have a giant, empty roadway. I wondered about the effect on area businesses, as well.

I actually like the idea behind SomerStreets a lot:

This program allows residents to explore the City by shutting various streets to promote safe walking, running, biking routes in various locations throughout the City.

But it seemed to both my husband and I that there needed to be more programming happening on the roadway itself, not just at Trum and Powderhouse. Maybe some historical exhibits or talks, representatives from civic and city organizations, biking demos/workshops or local bike shops showing off cool/vintage bikes, local eateries offering samples of their fare, musical performances, dance troupes, street chalking, fitness/health exhibits… the list goes on. Just walking from Powderhouse to Trum, we came up with at least a dozen viable ideas that would have drawn residents to the area and involved local businesses into the event. All we saw was a kiddie choo-choo listlessly ferrying people up and down the blocked-off stretch of road.

Don’t get me wrong. If there’s one thing that Somerville is not short on, it’s amazing civic programming that champions local business and the arts. I applaud the city for the SomerStreets initiative, and encouraging fitness and community pride. I just think this afternoon’s event fell a bit short. Perhaps the planning was rushed or the beautiful day drew people to less urban environs. I hope to see future SomerStreets events — the next one is said to be on July 25 — be great successes.