Chamber News

September 16, 2020 Likes Comments

Newton-Needham road project inches forward

Please join us tomorrow (Thursday at 10 a.m.) for a Zoom program about inclusivity in the workplace presented by Needham resident Gretchen Cook-Anderson.

Anderson is an award-winning education marketing leader whose mission is to cultivate global citizens who reflect the world's rich diversity.
 
She came highly recommended to our Women in Networking committee who are presenting this program (and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how important this topic is at this time). Scroll down to register.
 
State to modify 'Find My Local MA' campaign
 
The Globe’s Jon Cesto reports today on an issue I raised yesterday; the state’s disappointing $2 million “Find My Local MA” campaign.
 
As Chesto notes, I don’t have any problem with the site itself -- if the campaign’s only objective is to promote local tourism.
 
But that’s not the way Gov. Charlie Baker promoted the effort last month.
 
He said it’s designed to encourage shopping “at local Massachusetts businesses and attractions, safely – in person, online, and using curbside pickup or takeout.”
 
Yet good luck finding, for example, your local shoe store, garden shop or Irish pub here, which you’d hope a site called “Find My Local MA” would be all about.
 
The good news is state officials agree that the campaign doesn’t live up to its promise.
 
“Changes are coming, to highlight all chambers and other business groups that want to be listed,” Chesto reports.
 
That’s swell. I suppose. But the problem with “Find My Local MA” isn’t that it lacks a list of chambers or business groups.
 
The problem is that it doesn’t help shoppers find their local Massachusetts businesses.
 
And now, good news!

Okay, complaint time is over (or, at least, until we get to my final item). Here’s three positive developments in our local restaurant scene:
  • Restaurateurs Tim and Nancy Cushman were this close to opening Bianca at The Street in Chestnut Hill (at the former location of the Cottage) when the pandemic hit. Bianca will open eventually but they’ve pivoted with a fun pizza-focused concept, with outdoor seating beneath brightly colored umbrellas, called Mr. Roni Cups. (Boston Globe)
  • Husband and wife duo Kate and Trevor Smith just opened Thistle & Leek in Newton Centre, replacing the Chilean restaurant Comedor on Union St. The Smiths signed the lease before the pandemic and they’re soldiering ahead, creating a restaurant inspired by their favorite London pubs using local ingredients, with lots of outdoor seating. (Boston Globe).
  • Central Restaurant and Café in Newton Centre has been closed since March. But co-owner Joelle Tomb is getting set to reopen as a sushi restaurant called SushiCo. For the past few weeks staff have been testing out menus with an eye toward opening day, though it's still unclear when exactly that will be. (Newton Patch)
State takes over BC contact tracing
 
The state has taken over all contact tracing at Boston College amid growing anger and skepticism on campus about the school’s ability to control the spread of COVID-19, the Globe reports.
 
The unprecedented move is an effort to coordinate tracing with Newton, Brookline, and Boston.
 
Contractor named for Needham St./Highland Ave. project
 
MassDOT has selected P. Gioioso & Sons to serve as the contractor for the long-awaited Needham Street/Highland Ave redesign.
 
The state is investing about $30 million to address the most glaring challenges along this two-mile stretch; starting at the junction of Winchester Street and Route 9 in Newton and extending down Needham Street, across the Charles River onto Highland Avenue in Needham.
 
The project aims to improve walkability for pedestrians, reduce conflict points for cars and improve bike safety. The historic bridge over the Charles River will have two lanes heading into Newton and one lane into Needham, with cantilevered sidewalks to make the bridge safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
 
In preparation, utility companies will be clearing trees and shrubs near utility poles to facilitate relocation for construction work. Travel will be maintained during the work. In general, expect to see subcontractors working Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
 
MassDOT has scheduled a virtual public information meeting to introduce the contractor and discuss the construction schedule and sequencing on Weds. Sept. 30, 6:30-9 p.m. Register here. Go here for more information.
 
SBA week
 
The Small Business Administration is celebrating National Small Business Week this month. Between Sept. 22-24, small businesses can attend free virtual panels intended to help new and existing businesses to recover, adapt, and innovate in this challenging time. Register for this free virtual conference here.
 
Graze in Needham tonight
 
It's Day Two of the #Nedham100DayChallenge and time for the second Dine Around Needham and this time there’s no rain in the forecast.
 
Tonight (Weds.) from 6 to 9 p.m. you can mix and match appetizers, entrees, desserts or drinks from specialty curated menus from participating restaurants.

Then dine al fresco at the restaurants; at any of the picnic tables placed around town; or bring it home for takeout. One restaurateur said yesterday that last month’s event increased that day’s sales by 20 percent.
 
Surprise from city lawyer delays vote
 
Newton’s liquor commission postponed voting on a one-time license fee reduction last night after the city’s law department argued (just minutes before the expected vote) that the move is not legal under Massachusetts' Anti-Aid Amendment.
 
The news caught City Council President Susan Albright (who proposed the measure on Aug. 17), the chamber and several restaurant owners who were listening in, by surprise.
 
I suggested that it would have been common courtesy to give those advocating for the fee cut a heads up so we would have had time to review the legal interpretation.
 
But the city’s lawyer suggested she was not obligated to do so. (So much for “We’re all in this together," eh?)
 
She was also unable to explain how Needham approved an identical measure this summer.
 
Separately, the Fuller administration said it opposes the temporary cut; saying it can’t afford to take the one-time $200,000 budget hit. I argued that the long-term loss of local businesses, tax revenue, jobs and village vitality would outweigh one year’s loss.
 
But ultimately it was a request to better understand the legal issues raised at the 11th hour that lead the commission to delay the vote to Oct. 6.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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