By Carlos Valadares
FRAMINGHAM – As we celebrated Labor Day Monday and Brazilian Independence Day Tuesday, I think about what a missed opportunity for us to come together as residents of Framingham to celebrate our history and culture.
Across the globe, people are disappointed as the pandemic puts a hold on traditionally scheduled festivals and parades. In Framingham however, it is business as usual because we never had any such events to begin with.
When imagining what this could look like in a post-covid world, there is an immediate question I have to ask myself. Where would we even host a city-wide celebration, because it should be downtown, but downtown is a mess.
I have a vision for a revitalized city center that, with the help of City Hall, will be a place that the community can come together with pride.
I don’t think it’s lost on anyone that downtown is not receiving the support it needs. We can all see people camped in front of small businesses and the reports of crime that increasingly fill our news feeds.
I can tell you from first hand experience that when I needed help from City Hall as a downtown business owner, I was quickly brushed to the side.
We need comprehensive solutions with collaboration between politicians, business owners, police resources, and residents to revitalize the center of our city.
After taking considerable input from across the community, I agree that step one is to help those who are experiencing homelessness and/or drug addiction. I am in talks with multiple organizations to bring innovative solutions into Framingham.
By taking a proactive and focused outreach approach, we can work with these individuals to help them access the aide that they need. Every person we are able to rehabilitate will save the police department resources that can then be used to concentrate on combating crime.
Once the crime and homelessness problems are more under control, we can work to increase foot traffic and attract a large variety of businesses to our city center.
I want to create an environment that encourages people to come and spend the day or night out from across Framingham. I hear stories about when there was a movie theater and bowling alley downtown, we should aim to bring attractions like these back. I want to see people come with the intention of spending their free time downtown, as well as their money. I feel as though we have such distinct communities living in Framingham, I imagine a downtown that serves as a place where we can all come together.
I see downtown acting as a bridge where people from across the city can have fun and get more familiar with each other. I envision a place with a wide variety of restaurants and stores, with something that appeals to everyone.
I want to look at the streets of downtown and see a slice of our community, where everyone feels represented. Through this as well as efforts to establish city-wide events, we can build a stronger and more united community together.
I was forced out of my business due to the problems in our downtown, I don’t want to see others follow suit.
I see so much potential in this space of our young city, we need to make sure we are setting it up for success. I envision a bustling downtown that not only brings in people from across the city, but also shoppers and revenue from outside our borders as well. Framingham is now a city surrounded by towns, a vibrant downtown with occasional festivals has the potential to attract people from across the MetroWest area.
A revitalized city center will be a great boon to our local economy and set the stage for a bright future in Framingham. I want a downtown that will act as the spiritual and economic heart of our uniquely diverse city.
This is how we will support our local businesses and economy, unite the residents of Framingham, and make this a place we are all a little more proud to live in.
Carlos Valadares is a candidate for Mayor in the City of Framingham. He is on the ballot on Tuesday, September 14.