Walsh Looks to Boost Main Streets

Mayor Marty Walsh is proposing a $400,000 funding increase for local Main Streets groups – a 30 percent boost for each district.

By Jonathan Dame

Walsh made the official announcement Saturday in Roslindale, speaking to crowd of 150 in the courtyard of Sophia’s Grotto.

“We need to help our small businesses thrive and grow,” he said.

“My budget doesn’t reflect my priorities. My budget reflects your priorities.”

The Main Streets funding boost is part of the mayor’s $2.7 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2015, which he unveiled last week.

Each of the 20 Main Streets districts currently receives around $50,000 from the city annually. If the City Council approves the mayor’s proposed budget, that support would increase to $75,000.

Michael Iceland, executive director of West Roxbury Main Streets, said the funding increase would help Main Streets groups spend less time fundraising and more time investing in their communities.

“This will be a huge support for us to make sure that we’re stable and able to really support all the businesses in our district,” he said.

In past years, the city’s funding has made up around 50 percent of the West Roxbury group’s budget. But across the city, Iceland said, that number may vary from around 25 to 75 percent, he said.

“It’s going to make a huge impact on the smaller districts, or the more stressed or strained districts,” he said.

All of the Main Streets directors met with the City Council a few weeks ago, Iceland said. During that meeting, the councilors seemed supportive of increased funding for Main Streets, he said.

The Roslindale Village Main Street district is the oldest urban district in the country. Walsh praised the Roslindale group as a model for other parts of the city.

“This is how a Main Street is supposed to come together,” Walsh said.

“You don’t settle,” he added. “You continue to move and change with the times.”

Walsh also mentioned that his proposed budget would extend public library hours.

The flagship Copley branch would stay open Saturdays and Sundays year round, while local branches would stay open Saturdays year round.

Previously, weekend hours were limited during the summer.

Kelly Bates, a 17-year Roslindale resident, said she organized to keep the Roslindale library branch open a couple years ago.

“It is so exciting to see our new mayor putting investments in our neighborhoods, from businesses to libraries,” she said.

She said public investment helps communities retain their residents.

“More of us are going to stay in Roslindale,” she said.” Because the more there are vibrant business, and the libraries are open … it’s going to keep people here.”