Opinion: One person’s ideas on Waverley Square

Jay Szklut is Planning & Economic Development Manager for Belmont

Jay Szklut is Planning & Economic Development Manager for Belmont

The other day, I was out walking around Waverley Square with a consultant team the Town has engaged to conduct a market study of the Waverley Square area.  Relatively few persons were out walking around the square although it was a sunny morning with temperatures in the 70’s.  People were driving in and out of the Shaw’s parking lot but only one or two persons were actually walking to the store.  The car wash had a steady stream of customers driving in and out.  Waverley Primary Care at 43 White Street also appeared to be busy with patients entering and exiting, again most arriving by automobile.

While the activity I was witnessing in the Square stood in stark contrast to a pedestrian friendly vision of the Square, it did reinforce the role of the Square as a village center.  People were out shopping for groceries, attending to medical needs, some were at the barber shop or hairdresser, and a few at the Post Office.  What was missing from the Square’s role as a village center was its failure to generate a pedestrian environment; residents come to the Square by automobile.

What change should be promoted to encourage a more pedestrian friendly environment in Waverley Square?

First, the square itself must become more residential in nature.  Individuals that live in the Square will most likely walk to the various retail and service establishments.  Mixed-use development should be encouraged.

Second, is the need to increase the number and mix of businesses in the Square including increasing the amount of office space in the Square.  Clearly the office space in the Square today serves some of the financial, legal, and medical needs of local residents and brings persons to the Square.  Office space that increases and improves on such services should be encouraged.    It is a combination of residential, retail (including sit-down restaurants) and office development that will generate a square that is active during the day and evening.

Third, changes to the Square should reduce Trapelo Road’s dominant presence in the Square.  As one enters the Square, the open landscape leads to a perception of Trapelo Road as a pedestrian unfriendly, major highway knifing through the Square.  Framing Trapelo Road by creating a green space on the triangle with a row of trees along the Trapelo edge and encouraging three story development on the car wash side of the Square will provide a sense of a smaller more pedestrian friendly street.

These three changes are not mutually exclusive and in fact reinforce one another.  Additionally, these changes are not based on solely an interest to increase the economic activity in the square but are based on a desire to recreate the character of the square; if Waverley Square is envisioned as a place that nurtures a sense of village identity then a more pedestrian orientation must be developed.

Your comments on these thoughts and any ideas you might have are welcomed.

Jay Szklut
Planning & Economic Development Manager