Centre Street in West Roxbury
West Roxbury Main Streets office above Centre Street
newly constructed Starbucks on Centre Street not only brews a great
cup of joe but also lends credence to the revitalization of this
neglected business thoroughfare in the heart of West Roxbury.
one of the premier corporations in America decides on putting a
store in your neighborhood, you know you've got something special
going," says Brigid Boyle, director of West
Roxbury Main Streets.
"Magnificent Mile" it's not. But the addition
of household names to Centre Street such as Starbucks, Hallmark
Gold Crown, Home Depot, CVS, Walgreens and the local grocery giant
Roche Bros. has served to spread the shopping bug for many West
empty storefront in West Roxbury
It's a fervor
that was missing in this community for many years as a combination
of empty storefronts, neglected facades and a dull mix of shops,
bars and restaurants sent many residents elsewhere to shop.
stands as a symbol of what Boyle and the residents and businesses
associated with Main Streets have worked so hard for: to lure shoppers
back to a neighborhood that 2000
census data says is one of the wealthiest in Boston.
empty lot in West Roxbury
a nationwide neighborhood improvement initiative, was approved in
West Roxbury in September 2001. The City of Boston provided an initial
funding package over a four-year period, with $10,000 slated for
façade improvement in 2003 alone.
West Roxbury Main Streets
contacted residents and businesses last summer in an effort to boost
awareness of the revitalization. Now hundreds of residents and businesses
are volunteering in the effort to spruce up Centre Street, Boyle
Main Streets also distributed
an informal survey to the community that highlighted a disturbing
trend, the flight of consumers to out-of-town town shops such as
the Mall at Chestnut Hill, the Atrium Mall and the Dedham Mall.
Consumers' negative perceptions of shopping opportunities on Centre
Street is what Main Streets is battling to reverse.
Despite the survey and the underlying trends behind it, Starbucks
didn't hesitate to open its new store in January 2003.
storefront of the new Starbucks in West Roxbury
Manager Jeff Anderson found West Roxbury appealing on several levels,
including its proximity to major roadways such as the VFW Parkway,
the tight-knit nature of the community and favorable demographics.
excited to build a store in the area because of the closeness of
the community," Anderson says. "It's very rare especially
in urban spots these days. Foot traffic in the area has increased
gradually since we opened the store in January. I'm positive this
summer we'll see this trend continue."
a local grocery chain that has its roots in Roslindale, plans to
capitalize on the increased flow of consumers as well. In February
2002, it constructed a new building right around the corner from
So far the move has worked
out well, says Roche Bros. Assistant Manager Richard Broderick.
He maintains that as businesses become more lucrative on Centre
Street, a healthier mix of stores should evolve as other entrepreneurs
look to get in on the revitalization.
"Roche Bros. has
strived to set a precedent in giving back to West Roxbury, in the
hope that the neighborhood grows even stronger and more independent,"
In 1995, the company
opened the Roche Community Center on Centre Street as part of its
storefront of Steve Slyne's Deli
of smaller stores, such as the family-owned Steve Slyne's Deli,
say they are heartened to know that large corporations are beginning
to see value on Centre Street.
But Steve Slyne, whose
deli has been a cornerstone of the community since 1970, says that
even as West Roxbury changes, its roots remain the same. He points
to the fact that his shop has thrived without big business before.
The key ingredient to a revitalized downtown, he believes, is community
backing, not anchor stores.
"People just need
to support what's in town, that's the bottom line," Slyne says.
"The heavy reliance society has on cars and the Internet have
both taken something away from businesses in the area. But that's
not just a local problem, that's a nationwide trend."
Slyne does believe one
major obstacle stands in the way of completing a turnaround on Centre
Household Income per 2000 Census Data
data illustrates that West Roxbury's median household
income ranks near Boston's wealthiest neighborhoods.
But money is leaving West Roxbury to be spent in Chestnut
Hill or Dedham, which is hurting the local businesses
on Centre Street, a trend Main Streets is beginning
The scant parallel
spaces lining the main business artery vanish with the onset of
the morning commute, sending consumers scrambling for several public
parking lots located off the main drag. Even store-owners along
this winding thoroughfare in the heart of West Roxbury say they
spin their wheels for far too long seeking out a spot.
Ask George DeFina
Jr., who works at his fathers restaurant, Deno's Pizza and Subs
on Centre Street.
here is so terrible," DeFina Jr. says, adding, "I often
leave my car behind the store at night and walk home to my apartment...up
and down this street there's just nowhere to put your car!"
City Liaison Jay Walsh
confirms what everyone in West Roxbury already knows about the parking
woes: It will be difficult if not impossible to resolve.
"There's just no
room down there, you can't widen the street.," Walsh says.
Walsh contends residents
just need to use the parking lots that are but a few minutes walk
from the shops lining Centre Street.
Main Streets does plan
to make the streets more accommodating to foot traffic, with repaved
sidewalks and more green space, in a further attempt to showcase
West Roxbury's shops.
Boyle and her
volunteer corps hope that the street will draw more and more local
residents as its facelift continues and that, in turn, more stores,
boutiques and restaurants will join in reviving the street.