Without a doubt, Medford loves its city.
Residents praise the community’s sense of safety, inclusiveness, vast green spaces, and history as an active player in the American Revolution and colonization of the country.
But even so, residents responding to the administration’s request to help create a comprehensive plan, a master plan for the city for the next few decades, suggested changes.
Launched by Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn in June, the city has held three community meetings over the past year — all well-attended, the last in March — to assess what is working in Medford and what might need work.
“Everyone involved in this comprehensive plan process – from our staff and consultants to the steering committee, residents and businesses – has put an incredible amount of time and effort into creating a plan. that works for everyone who lives, works and visits our city,” said Lungo-Koehn. “Creating a community vision and a plan with goals to achieve that vision is long overdue by the City of Medford. and I’m grateful for such a great community process.”
After nearly 10 months of gathering information at in-person city events, through documents, surveys and focus groups, and through a popular interactive map on the city’s website, residents have given the city administration a clear vision of the city they want to live in.
“Residents have indicated they want an open and welcoming city for everyone, access and transparency from government, and more communication from the city to residents,” said Brie Hensold, city planner and co-founder and director of the Landscape + Planning agency, the city’s partner in the creation of the plan.
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Residents want a beautiful city, with public art, inviting and inclusive community spaces, and even prettier sidewalks and more uniform storefronts. They want the city’s history, culture and art to be nurtured and celebrated.
Recurring themes for the future of the city
Planners presented recurring themes: the revitalization of Medford Square, mixed-use zoning that combines commercial/retail with housing options, a demand to make the city less car-dependent, more bike-friendly (and pedestrians) with slower traffic, safer sidewalks and more bike lanes.
Medford wants more trees: fruit trees, city-owned grow spaces for berry plants and community food production, pollinator gardens, planting native species in swales and along medians. Residents suggest the city should plant more trees, especially in neighborhoods where a lack of trees and green space creates urban heat islands and leaves residents vulnerable to the ravages of climate change.
Also key: climate resilience, inclusive housing, open space.
“People have indicated that they don’t feel valued,” Hensold said, adding that they also feel left out of past government decisions.
She said the city needs to build trust between government and residents and ensure that city resources are allocated equitably, spread across different centers and neighborhoods in Medford.
The city’s unique spaces also need attention, according to the research. Its history needs to be honored and residents want the city to meet the capital needs of the city’s schools. These are considered as community anchor points, like the various town squares; all are hubs, gateways for information, inclusion and community interaction.
Planners learned that Medford needs to connect its dots: connect the city to its waterfront, connect unique features (Chevalier Theatre, the Fells) to the surrounding community, and connect its neighborhoods to each other.
The Mystic Avenue Corridor could be more than a feeder road from one city district to another, redeveloped into a destination hub, with transportation, retail, restaurants, breweries, shopping malls, and more. art and mixed-use housing.
Transport, accessibility, equity
Accessibility was also discussed: residents want expanded bus routes, multi-family housing and mixed-use neighborhoods near transportation hubs. They called for the redesign of the West Medford commuter rail station to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Suggestions included expanding the city’s retail frontage program to standardize malls, with historic colors for storefronts, expanding and maintaining the outdoor dining program, creating art and creative spaces.
West Medford stakeholders are committed to creating strategies to slow gentrification in the traditionally black neighborhood, support black-owned businesses, and even install prettier sidewalk planters and expand community garden opportunities in the city.
“Many initiatives in the past have focused on Medfordites and protecting the rights and privileges of people already here,” said Matthew Page-Lieberman, noting that the approach can erect barriers to other initiatives.
“It’s a city people choose to live here for the diversity,” Page-Lieberman said.
He added that many residents welcome the mobility of the population. Allowing others, he said, to access initiatives makes a city more dynamic and innovative, more resilient.