Here are my suggestions:
- Create more public places and spaces. I was surprised to see that Mansfield has only a few playgrounds and virtually no coffee shops. Public places encourage people to leave their homes and mingle with folks of all different backgrounds. Coffee shops with Wi-Fi (and good pastries) will invite professionals and telecommuters to stay and work in Mansfield.
- Focus on the arts. We don't need more parking lots to make downtown Mansfield more attractive. We need more shops, ones that don't do hair and nails. We need toy stores, stores selling art, bookstores, clothing boutiques, etc.
- Do more projects like the town mural. Beauty is important.
- Sell to commuters. Give them discounts on local restaurants and provide take-away, order-ahead service for when they get off the train. Soon they'll get to know the old (and hopefully new) restaurants and begin planning to stay for a spell -- spending at other old/new shops -- when they get off the train.
- Fill all the storefronts. Nothing says "dying downtown" faster than lots of for-lease signs.
- Stay open later. The shops close too early most nights. This makes it hard for working people to enjoy them.
- Understand the seniors. I live in downtown Mansfield, and we're a neighborhood in transition, with lots of seniors who like Mansfield the way it has been for the past decades. We need to show them that a more vibrant downtown Mansfield will bring in more tax revenue, which might mean more services and lower property taxes for them. If the debate is just over noise and the number of people, people who want positive change will lose every time.
I think Mansfield has great potential, but if it wants to attract young families like mine, it needs more than just good schools. We don't need more consultants to help us -- we have the chamber of commerce, arts associations, and lending institutions right here that can make this happen. Why can't they get together and come up with targeted businesses for the various vacant storefronts?
What do you think? How would you make Mansfield a destination and improve downtown? For me, it's time to stop talking and start doing.
- Matt Donnelly