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Plymouth Centre (MA) Master Plan

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Planners have a vision: parking spaces for all

By Robert Knox, Globe Correspondent, 1/22/2004

PLYMOUTH -- In a document that emphasizes the joys of walking, the master plan for Plymouth Center and the waterfront also highlights one of downtown's enduring problems -- parking.

Five years in the making, the master plan draft for the Downtown Village Center/Waterfront Area released last week provides a vision for the town's historic district and a blueprint for town leaders.

The Plymouth Center Task Force says in its vision statement that despite changes, downtown still allows ''a way of life where one walks to restaurants, banks and take-out establishments." But, it adds, the area is ''a place where the automobile is an inconvenience for the traditional downtown guest."

Task force member and downtown merchant Susan Melchin said the plan includes the prospect of a waterfront aquarium, swan boats on Jenney Pond, and theater in the round. But ''all these fantastic ideas will not reach their potential unless we have a place to park," said Melchin. ''You can bring people in for the aquarium, but that potential will not reach fulfillment unless you have adequate parking, because people get frustrated and then they want to drive to the mall."

Task force Chairwoman Barbara Mulvey-Welsh and member Nick Filla said the group talked a lot about increasing parking, but has not suggested specific ways to solve the problem.

''There's a consensus something needs to be done," Filla said. But decisions to build a parking garage or install parking meters in town lots and on center will be made by other entities, members said, such as the Plymouth Development Corporation, which is expected to place a parking plan before Town Meeting this spring. Metering town center parking remains a controversial proposal, said Melchin, who is also a member of the Plymouth Development Corporation. Currently, there are no parking meters on Main Street.

Less controversial is the master plan's call for connecting pieces of the downtown village center's geography through paths. ''We need linkage," Mulvey-Welsh said. A walking and bike trail could connect the soon-to-be-built North Plymouth bike path to Morton Park, west of the town center, along the waterfront and to the existing trail along Town Brook, which starts at the waterfront.

Unlike the last study of the downtown village center conducted in 1989, the task force's master plan pays more attention to the needs and interests of downtown residents. Mulvey-Welsh said residents' needs differ, even in such a concentrated area. For example, she said, North Street, near some of the most popular night spots, has different noise concerns than her own neighborhood near the Radisson Hotel on the waterfront.

The zoning goals address some of regulatory nuts and bolts needed to pursue the master plan vision. Samoset Street (Route 44), which connects Route 3 to the north end of the town center, is a ''mostly transitional" area, Filla said, but it could become a gateway . ''I think the street has to improve as an image," he said of the congested strip. The road's appearance could be improved by better lighting and deepening the delineation between asphalt and sidewalk, he said.

The plan also proposes expanded conference facilities, a permanent outdoor band shell, a place for a farmer's market, and a new town pier similar to Chicago's Navy Pier. Complete restoration along Town Brook, the plan states, would include a fish ladder at historic Jenney Grist Mill.

The Plymouth Center Task Force, while undergoing significant membership changes, has been working on a master plan since receiving its charge from the Planning Board in 1998. Plymouth Center is the last of the five village centers identified by the townwide village center plan to develop its own master plan.

The task force was scheduled to bring its draft before the Planning Board on Tuesday. If approved, it will go before Town Meeting along with a proposal to convert the task force into a steering committee. Steering committees, which exist in the other town villages, review development plans for their sections of town.

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