BURLINGTON - “Pocket Parks” could be Burlington’s newest outdoor hangout spot after the Select Board unanimously approved the concept.

Brought forth by Melisa Tintocalis, Burlington economic development director, the project is anticipated to temporarily transform four parking spaces into an area for people to gather and allow for some programming that will engage residents, attract more people to the area, and generate an increase in business activity for the small businesses in Town Center.

The proposed location would be in the parking lot adjacent to Sweet Ginger at 184 Cambridge St. This idea came about due to the negative impacts COVID-19 has wreaked for all businesses.

“Per the Local Rapid Recovery Program, which surveyed Town Center businesses in April 2021, over 70% of the area’s businesses reported at least a 50% drop in the number of customers and even greater numbers in decreased sales,” cited Tintocalis.

Fortunately, Burlington was awarded a Massachusetts Downtown Initiative Grant resulting from the first-ever “Town Center Placemaking Playbook.” which recommended two potential sites for outdoor installations, including 183 and 184 Cambridge St.

Tintocalis referenced this initiative falling in-line with Burlington’s Comprehensive Master Plan for economic development in the center of town.

“These parks will promote town-oriented businesses that provide services, employment and opportunities for small enterprises,” Tintocalis articulated. “We are providing measures to promote businesses along Cambridge Street by supporting promotional events and the participation of businesses in civic programs.”

The goals were listed as follows: Build a sense of ownership and place for residents and local businesses. Foster community and connections between people by engaging local businesses and residents. Provide the physical interventions and unique programs to enliven the area and increase business activity.

The town’s Economic Development Office, Recreation Department and Department of Public Works have begun exploring steps to ensure there is commercial grade seating furniture in the park and jersey barriers for safety.

First Event?

With the concept approved, Tintocalis unveiled the first program idea for the town’s “Pocket Park” consisting of a Business Open House & Beer Garden. A tentative date is Saturday, Oct. 9, from noon to 6 p.m., where businesses would be encouraged to set up outside tables or open doors to encourage visitors to wander in and get to know the space. The town would contract with an event company, Craft’d, to organize a local area beer provider, and ensure the safety of the event. Moran Street would temporarily be closed to vehicle traffic, with vehicles rerouted down Skilton Lane.

However, the event and date are provisional, so keep reading the Daily Times to find out when the confirmed event date will be.

With the Select Board formally supporting the “Pocket Park” concept, expect updates on the implementation of the initiative in the coming weeks.

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