FRAMINGHAM — One of the four candidates so far vying to become mayor envisions a vastly revamped downtown train station that will make Framingham a transportation and economic hub.
Mayor Yvonne Spicer, former City Councilor and Selectman Charlie Sisitsky, founder and CEO of the Brazilian Immigrants Family of America Carlos Valadares and local builder and musician Rick McKenna have each pulled nomination papers for mayor. As of Tuesday afternoon, none has returned papers to the City Clerk’s Office.
McKenna, a member of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals who described himself as a “townie,” recently devised a 40-page document on his vision for the future of Framingham post-COVID-19. It centers around a reconstructed commuter rail station featuring more parking and retail.
McKenna’s “International Place” would consist of a state-of-the-art train station, two parking garages, food courts, small retail and more. The train station and much of the north building would be built over existing train tracks, according to McKenna’s plan.
Murals showcasing the city’s vibrant history would be part of the plans as well. The facility would also feature coffee shops and mini beer gardens for city brewers.
“It’s going to show the flavor of Framingham,” said McKenna. “That’s a big vision.”
Neighboring communities with limited commuter rail access could have non-stop shuttles from their designated parking lots to the Framingham station on a regular schedule. That would make the project concept more regional, and increase the possibility of municipal and regional financing, according to McKenna’s plan.
Parking north and south on Waverly Street (Rte. 135) would lessen the amount of traffic crossing the railroad tracks on Concord Street (Rte. 126), he said.
“Studies will show that the traffic routing will have a significant positive effect on the continuing traffic dilemmas facing downtown,” McKenna wrote in his report.
Rooftop solar panels would also bring a green element to the project, he said.
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The longtime Nobscot resident said grant money is in great abundance for transportation projects and infrastructure, such as the $16 billion Transportation Bond Bill; economic development legislation signed by Gov. Charlie Baker that will provide $626 million over five years for capital authorizations and policy provisions to support economic growth and improve housing stability; and private investment.
“Our future is now — should we accept the challenges in front of us,” McKenna wrote. “For many who are employed by the city, the scope of such a project is, understandably, overwhelming. In contrast, however, for those stakeholders who call Framingham their home, and see their children and grandchildren calling Framingham their home, this project would be a welcome challenge. A strategic direction for Framingham to excel in the uncertainties that lie ahead.”
McKenna is also eying other initiatives, such as helping the city’s restaurants succeed and thrive after the pandemic and extending Nobscot Park. Helping restaurants and other small businesses post-pandemic is a top priority for McKenna.
“That’s the fabric of Framingham and we’re losing it,” he said.
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Along with his service on the Zoning Board of Appeals, McKenna has coached baseball and softball and organized the Caribbean Schools Disaster Relief Foundation in the wake of the 2017 hurricanes that struck the Caribbean. The foundation provided bottled water to students in three Puerto Rican communities hit hard by the 2017 hurricane season.
“We don’t have enough of that,” McKenna said of the foundation’s efforts.
Jeff Malachowski can be reached at 508-490-7466 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JmalachowskiMW.
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