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Towns must focus vision for future

Putnam official to speak in Southbridge

The former Memorial Hall on Main Street might be th best representation of where Southbridge stands at present. It’s a place with lots of history that’s in the early stages of renovation, with a vision to become a “green” building and grant funding. It just needs community effort. File photo. (click for larger version)
December 06, 2009

To Delpha Very, the town for which she works and Southbridge have a lot in common.

Not only do both communities share the same river, they're both old mill towns, both struggling to recover from being too closely identified with one industry, both have a controversial landfill and both possess the potential to be key regional hubs for agriculture and commerce.

"Both towns are passionate about being quintessential New England downtowns," Very observed, later adding, however, that the key to success is "to be unique."

For the last two years, she has been Economic Development Director in Putnam, Conn., and is bringing some of her experiences north of the border this Thursday. The Woodstock resident and former selectman will speak a 12 Crane St. at 7 p.m.

"This economy has hurt local shopkeepers, but helped in some respects because people are starting to look at the community aspect," she said. "… People don't walk much today, but they're driving to places for walkable communities."

Ironically, Southbridge already comes up as "very walkable" under the criteria used by www.walkscore.com, which looks at a community based on how close schools, parks, shops and other amenities are to whatever address you input. (In this case, the paper's office, 25 Elm St.) Putnam does, too; the two towns score 75 and 74 out of 100, respectively.

But Very observed that sometimes the reality is obscured by the perception. Putnam recently conducted a parking study and found almost all of the downtown core is within 350 feet of a municipal parking lot, but most people — even business owners — believed it was farther.

See Tuesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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