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Barnstable shares development woes, solutions at forum

By Evan J. Albright

The future of development on Cape Cod should be town centers, according to participants at a forum held last Friday at the Cape Codder Hotel in Hyannis.

"Town Centers: A Smart Way to Grow" was the subject of the forum sponsored by the Cape Cod Selectmen's and Councilors' Association and the Cape Cod Business Roundtable. Speakers included representatives from many Cape towns on the Cape as well as several not-for-profit organizations and agencies such as the Association to Preserve Cape Cod and the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts.

The main thrust of the forum was that the current zoning model across the Cape caters to the automobile, which encourages strip-mall development and separate residential subdivisions. A better model, according to forum participants, is the mixed-use village center, examples of which can be found in almost every town on the Cape.

However, as Town Councilor Greg Milne pointed out, if zoning had been around a century ago when these centers developed, they would not be there today. Zoning "doesn't allow it," he said.

Attempting to revitalize downtowns or duplicating that model in other villages is nothing new. "If these were easy issues to deal with, we would have dealt with them a decade or two ago," said Barnstable's town manager, John Klimm. He later pointed out that the town has been talking about revitalizing downtown for 30 or 40 years and to date has not been successful in turning these concepts into an implementation plan.

The other towns on the Cape can learn lessons from Hyannis, Klimm said, and he gave a laundry list of mistakes and missed opportunities over the past several years.

Local boards, such as planning, zoning, and conservation, have not taken a significant look at the cumulative effect of the projects that are reviewed, he said. Also, the town has not done a very good job providing for the people who live in the town center. Klimm said he was born and raised in Hyannis and could remember when there more families living there.

The Community Development Department has not been given the tools it requires to be successful, Klimm said. "Downtown has hundreds and hundreds of land owners," he said, making it extremely difficult to assemble parcels for zoning or development.

The town has approached potential investors in commercial property and been told that regulations makes it difficult, he said. "We have 14 different zoning areas downtown," Klimm said. Developers know they have to go to the town and then the Cape Cod Commission, all at tremendous cost. There are mechanisms in the Cape Cod Commission act that enable towns to streamline the process, namely regulatory agreements, and Klimm said one is contemplated for downtown. Also, the town is moving forward on zoning changes and may create a community development board.

"I don't see the Cape Cod Commission as the enemy here," he said.

The Cape is over-zoned for commercial development, said Margo Fenn, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission. Commercial zoning is also in the wrong place, she said.

Many of the speakers felt that an ideal approach to future development would be to reduce commercial zoning along major streets and, in some cases, reduce density restrictions in areas determined to be town centers.

Increased density brings its own issues.

"Cape Cod is about water," said Maggie Geist, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod and a member of the Business Roundtable. "Water does not respect the 15 political boundaries we've set up. We are all in this together."

The Business Roundtable is proposing the creation of a regional organization to tackle and solve the issue of wastewater treatment on Cape Cod, which is estimated to cost more than a billion dollars. Geist suggested a slogan for the cause: "There is no such thing as a free flush."

From The Barnstable Patriot

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I think most town on the Cape are doing a good job buying available land. They need to find addition ways to raise money to purchase more land.

I think all those strip mall/home depots/wall-marts. Should be required to have housing on the 2nd floor(most likely affordable).

I grew up on the cape and would like to move back someday but I know I will never be able to afford a home.

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This article from this summer about a development in Sandwich might interest you...

Creating a village

With input from Sandwich and the Cape Cod Commission, Shaw's proposes a creative development.

The Cape Cod Commission, Sandwich town officials and Shaw's supermarket executives deserve credit for transforming a boiler-plate commercial development into a creative suburban planning model.

Two years ago, Shaw's proposed building a standard, cookie-cutter supermarket and requisite parking lot, complete with those pretty looking trees on the architect's drawing pad that, in reality, shrivel up and die after six months of inhaling vehicle exhaust.

The plan was referred to the Cape Cod Commission as a development of regional impact, and soon the ideas began flying like cars on Cotuit Road.

How about lining the 24-acre property with smaller office buildings to help limit visual pollution of the parking lot? Why not create a village-style plaza?

Then the town weighed in.

Why not develop the site in conjunction with adjacent town-owned property as a village center for south Sandwich? A mini Mashpee Commons.

What if the proposed development could share access with a nearby pizza restaurant, video store, real estate office, future library, senior center and affordable housing?

Unlike some developers that balk at any site improvements, Shaw's representatives responded. They are willing to provide the land on site for a 12,500-square-foot senior center (why not a combined senior/youth center?), a 25,000-square-foot library and 12 units of affordable housing next door to the grocery store.

Nevertheless, some residents have begun circulating a petition opposing the development, but the proposed Shaw's site is located within the "growth center" of south Sandwich.

That's not to say that all the issues have been resolved.

The 70,000-square-foot supermarket, its 328 parking spaces, the library, and senior center are sure to significantly increase traffic on Cotuit Road, which already backs up at certain times. Should the developer widen the road to four lanes?

At the very least, the development requires separate turn lanes on Cotuit Road and a traffic light.

Secondary access will be provided on Cotuit Road, off Quaker Meetinghouse Road beyond the Grand Union entrance, and from Canterbury Plaza.

And despite Shaw's willingness to provide land for the town buildings, it must still provide open space either on site or elsewhere in town, as required by the county's Regional Policy Plan.

As for the senior/youth center, or intergenerational center, the seniors could use it during school hours and weeknights, and the town's burgeoning youth population could use it after school and weekend evenings.

Nevertheless, the remaining hurdles can be cleared with the continued cooperation among Shaw's, the commission and the town.

From The Cape Cod Times

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Buzzards Bay says: Look at our canal

Group hopes to reclaim the village's maritime heritage with access and views to the waterway that splits Bourne in two.

By KEVIN DENNEHY

STAFF WRITER - January 26, 2004

BUZZARDS BAY - The Cape Cod Canal has rolled past the village of Buzzards Bay for decades, a seven-mile man-made waterway that in the early 20th century literally split the town in half.

Funny thing is, though, throughout most of the village you'd hardly know the canal is there, even though it's only a couple of hundred yards behind the Main Street shops.

A local group wants to change that by linking the village of Buzzards Bay to the canal - not to mention the roughly 4 million people who visit the waterway each year.

"There aren't that many access points to the canal. There aren't even that many vistas," said Kerri-Ann Tirrell, project manager for the Buzzards Bay Village Association.

"The canal is the biggest asset this town has. But where is that (visitor money) going?"

The association wants to create a trail of historical markers and public parks called the Greenbelt Pathway. They hope the trail, reminiscent of Boston's Freedom Trail, will help salvage some long-abandoned public lands and reclaim the village's maritime heritage.

For starters, they want to build a canal-viewing deck at the foot of Perry Avenue, a quiet roadway that in the early 20th century was the gateway to Cape Cod.

Before the canal was expanded in the early 1930s, an oak-decked drawbridge carried visitors from Buzzards Bay to the rest of the Cape.

Now, the ramp up to the old bridge is blocked off with wooden horses and jersey barriers. From the mainland side of Perry Avenue, a visitor would hardly know the canal is just yards away.

A pair of concrete blocks, which at one time buttressed the old drawbridge, still sit in the shadow of the monumental Bourne Bridge that replaced it.

Members of the Buzzards Bay Village Association envision a day when a string of park benches and gardens line the path to the viewing deck. Tirrell says an oak platform would be reminiscent of the old gatehouse that stood at the bridge entrance.

The deck, a first phase in the Greenbelt project, would likely cost $50,000 to $100,000. The association hopes to raise money through donations and commercial sponsorships.

The canal view is just the type of project James Mulvey of Buzzards Bay has been requesting for years. For too long, Mulvey says, town leaders have failed to capitalize on the canal and its role in Bourne history.

"For years, the town treated tourism like a dirty word," he said. "Now, I think that's changing. I think they're seeing that that canal is a jewel."

For now, Mulvey says, he'd like to see more emphasis on actual access to the canal, and not just views.

Once the Perry Avenue project is complete, the association will focus elsewhere: landscaping the waterfront area on Bourne Pond, salvaging the Bourne Family Cemetery, even re-bronzing the tarnished eagle that stands in front of town hall. Eventually, they hope a necklace of landmarks will be linked with benches, picnic areas and history kiosks.

But it'll be expensive. As part of the fund-raising campaign, the association is selling $10 commemorative green belts. The belts will also serve as admission to a St. Patrick's Day event March 17 at the Beachmoor Restaurant & Inn on Buzzards Bay.

For more information, call Tirrell at 508-564-9043.

From The Cape Cod Times

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Cape Cod has really suffered a huge amount of sprawl in the past 20 years. I'm not lying when I say I hope this can be stopped before the traffic gets so bad it no longer is a manageable weekend destination in the summer.

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It's gonna stop soon, the penninsula is almost built-out. There are some promising signs that the powers that be in Hyannis are starting to get it. Hyannis is not a quaint little sea-side village, it's a city, with city problems that need city solutions. People in Hyannis are actually looking towards cities like Newport and Northampton and Portsmouth for a model of how Hyannis should be.

This is a recent Op-Ed piece from the Barnstable Patriot:

Imagine if you will... Main Street's new reality

By Cynthia Cole

Imagine if you will Newport, Chatham, Northampton, Great Barrington, Burlington, Vt., Newburyport, Nantucket. What do they all have in common? People live and/or work downtown or in close proximity to the business district.

Hyannis Main Street is on its way to sharing the same quality. A project that everyone has been watching was finally approved last week, albeit not completely intact, by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Twelve new condominiums will be built on the second floor (complete with private garaged parking) of the West End Marketplace, formerly Guido's, formerly formerly the Hyannis Cinema and even the meeting hall for Town Meeting many years ago!

While the building's original use will change, this historic gem will now be put back in shape as the beautiful building it once was. This project is a great example of adaptive reuse. A building that can no longer make a go of it as it was originally designed will now be dignified again with people proudly living their lives in the spaces once occupied, at least on screen, by Greta Garbo and Clark Gable.

The new residents will walk downstairs and across or down the street to dine in one of forty different eateries, shop for clothes and gifts, run to the post office or the hardware store, get their banking done, pick up the dry cleaning or a prescription at the pharmacy. They can walk to the library, the Village Green, the harbor, the beach, the Mets game!

This project represents so many positive signs for Main Street

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Mashpee Commons: A village revival

Some see the mix of housing and commerce as a model for future growth on Cape Cod.

By FREDERICK MELO - Feb. 8, 2004

STAFF WRITER

As a teenager in Hanover, N.H., Douglas Storrs and his friends would drive down the most picturesque main streets of New England, postcard-perfect village centers celebrated for their quaintness and vitality.

Part of their appeal, he remembers, was their blend of housing above storefronts. Fueled by foot traffic, banks and businesses flourished on the same block as apartments.

Later, as a town planner in Hampton, N.H., during the late-1970s, Storrs was disappointed to discover that the livable, walkable village center could not be replicated. Suburban zoning laws denied "mixed-uses" on Main Street, creating a legal barrier between housing and commerce.

The restrictions left him unable to do much more than "perpetuate sprawl," he said. "There's 50 years of bad zoning that we're still stuck with."

But in recent years, that's been changing, and some of the change has been happening on Cape Cod with a project that Storrs has been involved with: Mashpee Commons. The complex mixes retail stores and other services with housing, some above businesses.

Recognizing that top-of-the-shop housing was once a staple of American neighborhoods, Storrs and other proponents of controlled growth hope to see towns, developers, business owners and residents embrace the second-floor housing model in village centers across the Cape.

Working with his peers on the Cape Cod Business Roundtable, a coalition of civic activists and business leaders, Storrs has been trying to change development patterns.

As the roundtable starts to get more serious about bringing back the downtown centers of many villages by remaking the peninsula's zoning map, they can learn from the Mashpee Commons model.

In 1986, Storrs took a stand against modern zoning. For the construction of 35-acre Mashpee Commons, he and partner Arnold "Buff" Chace received permission from the town to reintroduce housing above storefronts.

With 13 leased and occupied second-floor apartments, 27 under construction, and permits for 60 more, the village-style shopping center has become the town's bustling commercial centerpiece.

A staircase commute

Tucked above the Talbots clothing store at the corner of Steeple and Market streets, two main roads in Mashpee Commons, 13 leased apartments - a mix of studios, one- and two-bedrooms - look over a bank, an old-fashioned clock tower and several restaurants. The building next door is wrapped with retail stores and a six-screen movie theater. A school, church and library are all located within walking distance.

Streets are narrow, allowing for bigger sidewalks and a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

Prices for the typical one-bedroom unit begin at $950 a month. Apartment sizes range from 700 square feet to 1,200 square feet.

"It's a terrific place to live. I don't drive, and there's everything here that I want," said 67-year-old Muriel Otenti, a widow who moved into Mashpee Commons a year and a half ago.

"It's very convenient. A post office, drug store, supermarket - everything is here."

For one of the fastest growing towns in New England, Storrs said expanding upward - as opposed to growing outward - is the right way to grow.

"When you have mixed-use, and you have municipal services next door, I can live above a store, and I can have my commute be the staircase," Storrs said.

To that end, three of the new apartments soon to be built on Market Street will be "live-work" units, for employers or employees of retail shops in the same building.

Girders are already in place to build 24 more apartments above retail space on Steeple Street. With 12 units per floor, the one-bedroom apartments and studios will be between 700 square feet and 1,100 square feet, allowing for tenants with a range of incomes. The live-work units are expected to be completed by July 1.

Duplicating the model

Mashpee Commons is part of a development trend across the country, which some Business Roundtable members hope will spread on the Cape.

Environmentalists say putting housing above storefronts plays a key role in keeping development away from the Cape's fragile woods, wetlands and wellhead protection areas.

Some say it's also a healthier way to live. A national study released last year by the Smart Growth America coalition found that residents of automobile-dependent neighborhoods walk less, weigh more and are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure.

Meanwhile, proponents say village-style development carries the appeal of Americana.

The village concept, which fell by the wayside in the latter half of the 1900s, has caught on again in several areas of the country. From Bethesda Row in Maryland to City Place in West Palm Beach, Fla., planned-growth neighborhoods are using top-of-the-shop apartments to revitalize urban centers.

Andy Kunz, director of NewUrbanism.org, estimates there are between 200 and 300 such projects across the country.

"If you're a young, single person, do you want to live out in a cul-de-sac in some suburb?" said Storrs, whose latest project is the redevelopment of five historic buildings in downtown Providence.

"When I walk out my front door, I'm not in the middle of two-acre woods. ... Is this for everybody? Absolutely not. But we need to be able to provide that option by zoning, and that option is not available in New England, and it's particularly not available on Cape Cod."

Momentum, barriers

Locally, a widespread return to the neo-traditional village is still a long way from reality.

In most towns, zoning bylaws still present barriers to mixing commercial development with housing. And new homes are generally restricted to one or two units per acre, forcing developers to spread them apart.

"I think everyone knows on Cape Cod that we have grown the wrong way," said Maggie Geist, a Business Roundtable member and executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod. "We have grown in low-density, large lot sizes, that make people use their cars."

Storrs' efforts at Mashpee Commons haven't gone unappreciated by Cape housing advocates and other proponents of "smart growth."

"As a form of development, it's a more efficient way to do it," said Mashpee Town Planner Thomas Fudala.

They have also garnered national attention. Mashpee Commons was one of four communities featured in the PBS show, "Becoming Good Neighbors: Enriching American Communities By Design." It was also featured in urban designer Peter Katz's 1994 book, "The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community."

Town planners are eager to see a return to the type of second-floor development used in Mashpee Commons in Barnstable Village, Provincetown, and parts of Chatham, Falmouth and Harwich.

But obstacles abound. Among them, the need for a more sophisticated wastewater infrastructure than a Title 5 septic system. Funding is also a concern. Banks are accustomed to lending money for shopping centers or housing developments, rather than a fusion of the two.

Perhaps the greatest challenge, however, is zoning.

Prompted in part by the Business Roundtable, several towns are adjusting their bylaws to allow top-of-the-shop housing in select areas.

In Barnstable, the town recently approved a permit for 12 housing units above the Roasted Red Pepper restaurant at 615 Main St., Hyannis.

On Main Street in Buzzards Bay, three developers have taken advantage of the "village mixed-use development" bylaw to remodel apartments above storefronts.

A proposed bylaw under consideration for Dennisport encourages developers to think along these lines by requiring a unit of housing for every 2,500 to 7,500 square feet of new commercial space.

"It doesn't have to be a second-floor housing unit, but we're trying to encourage top-of-the-shop," said Dennis Town Planner Daniel Fortier. "We're trying to go up to two stories, and in certain areas, three stories. We want to make it attractive to reinvest in the core area of Dennisport."

Mashpee Commons

From The Cape Cod Times

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'This is a great way of living'

A restaurateur takes a chance on a struggling village by expanding his restaurant, and building his home above it.

By FREDERICK MELO - Feb. 8, 2004

STAFF WRITER

BUZZARDS BAY - As a young man in the early 1980s, Peter Luciani Jr. fried the doughnuts in his parents' bustling Main Street diner, Ma's Restaurant.

Today, he owns the building, works in it and lives in it.

"That's how they did it in the North End, for how many years?," said Luciani, a professional builder, who invested more than $500,000 and two years of his own labor into gutting and refurbishing the three-story structure at 149 Main St.

Luciani, who grew up in Sagamore, now lives in a luxury, two-story apartment above "Ma's Restaurant - The Next Generation." He opened the fashionable breakfast-lunch-and-dinner grille two months ago in the heart of one of the Cape's most depressed village centers, as an ambitious homage to the values and lifestyle he grew up in.

Luciani, who lives with his 13-year-old son Peter J. Luciani III, considers himself a pioneer in the effort to bring business back to Buzzards Bay.

For Luciani, Boston's North End and its entrepreneurial Italian immigrants of bygone times, are the model. "They worked long hours, because you have to, but you could still see your kids. You could still be close to your family."

About two years ago, Luciani relocated his building business from Nantucket and convinced his parents to sell him the family diner. The restaurant, like the neighboring village, had suffered since the 1980s, when the Route 25 connector arrived, bypassing Buzzards Bay and redirecting Cape-bound motorists from Route 495 directly onto the Bourne Bridge.

Today, Luciani's commute is a staircase. The view from his two-level apartment includes the water and biking paths of the Cape Cod Canal, the American flag fluttering atop the railroad bridge, and the shops and stores along Main Street.

His son, who recently bused his first table, attends a Catholic school within walking distance. There's even a separate upstairs apartment for Luciani's parents, who visit from Florida six months of the year.

"This is a great way of living," said Luciani, pointing to Peter III sipping orange soda at the restaurant bar, his backpack slung at the bottom of a bar stool. "He gets to hang out with me and do his homework while I'm working. It's a cool atmosphere."

But for the entrepreneur-turned-neighborhood stalwart, it's also been a pricey, lonely road.

Desperate to return Buzzards Bay to its glory days, Bourne adjusted the village's zoning bylaws in 2001 to allow new housing above retail shops.

Once a common occurrence in village centers across the Cape, modern zoning requirements had prevented all but previously existing top-of-the-shop housing in Bourne since at least the late 1980s.

But the zoning change hasn't inspired as many business owners to invest in Main Street as some town leaders had hoped.

So far, only three permits have been issued for top-of-the-shop housing.

Still, civic activists hope to see others copy Luciani's model.

The Buzzards Bay Village Association plans an international design contest, with a prize of up to $20,000 for the architect who can create a new design scheme for the village.

"We don't want any more strip malls. We want to concentrate housing, businesses, and recreation in town centers," said Tom Moccia, executive director of the Village Association. "You work, you play and you recreate all in the same area."

From The Cape Cod Times

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Cape towns falling short of planning goals

By Doreen Leggett | Thursday, December 16, 2004

BARNSTABLE - It's hard to find a town plan on the Cape that doesn't call for defined town centers that are pedestrian-friendly, with top-of-the-shop housing, and no sprawl beyond its borders.

It's just as hard to find a town on the Cape that has a center that matches its plan.

"Few towns have actually changed zoning regulations to make that happen," said Margo Fenn, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission.

Fenn spoke Tuesday as part of a regional and county panel that released "Facing the Future: A New Look at Growth Management on Cape Cod" at a forum at First District Court.

The report compiles information gathered from a growth management audit that was sent to all 15 towns on the Cape (Sandwich is the only town that didn't participate.)

It was designed to help towns review the regulations they had in place, formulate what they wanted to see in the future and learn from their peers.

The key findings and recommendations include: the difficulties in countering sprawling commercial and residential development; towns aren't using all the tools available to them to help protect open space, and community character; there is little coordination between town boards, or neighboring towns; and although towns recognize the need for workplace housing, most construction is still for single-family homes on large lots.

Paul Niedzwiecki, Barnstable's assistant town manager, said it is far easier to write up a plan than implement it. He spoke of the town's attempts to have Trader Joe's, a specialty grocery store, locate on Main Street as part of the town's revitalization program.

Main Street has suffered in recent years because the traffic on Route 132 has made it difficult for people to get to the town center.

"Route 132 has become the perfect example of commercial sprawl," he said. But Trader Joe's representatives said they needed to open the store on Route 132 because that is where the traffic is.

Niedzwiecki called the situation a "death spiral."

The report points out that towns need to overcome the complex nature of zoning, the required two-thirds vote to amend zoning, grandfathering protections and the lack of local resources available for long-range planning.

Still, towns are making progress. Barnstable, Dennis and Harwich were all lauded for their efforts in creating regulations to foster strong town centers.

Elliott Carr, the moderator of the Business Roundtable, said that the slow progress can be chalked up to an "anti-change culture" that exists on the Cape.

He said that people on the Cape have a picture in mind of what they want the Cape to look like, but it's impossible to achieve while the peninsula is "frozen" in time with 1950s zoning.

He added that support of the status quo is particularly prevalent in the building trades, a field that Carr, president of Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, feels he is part of. But, he said, it is those trades - as well as everyone on the Cape - that would benefit from zoning changes that improve the economy and quality of life.

Dan Dray, of the Cape Cod Economic Development Council, agreed that creating a "vibrant downtown" is an economic development issue, not just a planning and land-use one.

Maggie Geist, executive director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, said towns need to start laying a framework for the future as they move forward on their wastewater management plans, which can increase growth if not done properly.

She said towns need to link the capital facilities plan with the long-range plan, adding that only two towns had evaluated build-out under current zoning and used it to plan facilities.

As only 17 percent of the Cape is still on the cusp of either development or protection, Geist said, it is increasingly important to decide what gets protected.

It also can be argued that the Cape doesn't need more single-family homes and that living in village centers is a past that residents should aspire to return to, she said.

Chatham Selectman Ron Bergstrom, president of the Cape Cod Selectmen's & Councilors' Association, said that oftentimes volunteer boards, with the help of a small band of professional staff, have been ill-prepared to deal "with this exponential growth that has happened on Cape Cod."

The "Facing the Future" report will help towns get to where they want to be, he said.

The report was released by five organizations - APCC, the Roundtable, the commission, the economic council and the selectmen's and councilor's association.

From The Register

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It's hard to find a town plan on the Cape that doesn't call for defined town centers that are pedestrian-friendly, with top-of-the-shop housing, and no sprawl beyond its borders

It's just as hard to find a town on the Cape that has a center that matches its plan.

What about Provincetown? A very dense center, and no sprawl.

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Provincetown can't sprawl, pretty much all the land that has not been developed is part of the National Seashore. But if you cross over into Truro you can see plenty of houses spread out all by themselves on their own lots. Truro has a bit more space that is not seashore land.

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Banknorth funds design competition

January 7, 2005

A $10,000 cash injection from Banknorth will help fund an international design competition to rehabilitate downtown Buzzards Bay.

"We are pleased to have Banknorth's strong support in restoring the Main Street/Buzzards Bay area as a ... tourist and business attraction on the Upper Cape," said Tom Moccia, president of the Buzzards Bay Village Association, the nonprofit organization spearheading the revitalization effort.

The association's design competition is modeled after a similar effort that helped transform the depressed Long Island port town of Greenport, N.Y., now a vibrant hub of economic activity with a rising tax base and increased tourism.

The competition comes with a winning purse of $20,000, which will be distributed to the top five design proposals to redevelop Buzzards Bay. The winners will be selected by a jury of prominent architects from around the world.

Association officials hope the winning designs will serve as a blueprint for rejuvenation efforts.

From The Cape Cod Times

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