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Mattapan Square businesses still waiting for Main Street program

Posted by Patrick Rosso  January 25, 2012 03:49 PM

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(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

Mattapan Square, along Blue Hill Avenue, as the Blue Hills rise in the distance.

It's no secret that businesses throughout Boston are still struggling with the effects of the recession. But with the announcement in fall 2010 that Mattapan Square would soon become a Main Streets district, many merchants were encouraged that the city's plan to spruce up the square would help attract additional customers.

Now, more than a year later the Mattapan Square Main Streets still has no executive director and businesses are still struggling.

"They have growing pains like any other organization," said Stephen Gilman, program director of Boston Main Streets, which oversees all the Main Streets programs in the city. "But it's not that unusual because the people involved are all volunteers and it takes time."

Boston Main Streets is a federally funded, citywide program that works to revitalize commercial districts through a combination of technical, financial, and design support. In November 2010, the city officially accepted Mattapan's application to become a recognized Main Streets District. According to the Dorchester Reporter, applications were also submitted by community members to develop a Main Streets for Mattapan in 1997 and 2000.

A group of residents and business owners are working to organize the group and reach out to the community, holding their first public visioning meeting in September 2011. Meanwhile, businesses continue to face the challenges of the congested and as some see it, less-than-desirable square.

"I can't get my clients to come down here [Mattapan Square]," said Sarnia Dupie, one of the owners of the Pastry Chef, which has a retail location in Mattapan Square. "I wouldn't be able to get my high-end clients if they knew where we are located."

Although some customers may not find Mattapan Square an attractive location to shop, Dupie believes it has a lot of potential.

"We need to create a more positive image of the square and Mattapan in general," she said. "We need to try to revamp the square, clean it up, and put in benches like you see in other neighborhoods."

Dupie said that her business is considering opening a cafe in front of its location. She believes adding more places for residents and shoppers to sit and enjoy the square could be helpful.

"If you go to Roslindale, there's a park to sit in and cafes where people can eat and people watch," she said. "We don't have that in Mattapan."

Stella Gouras, a manager at Brothers Deli and Restaurant in Mattapan Square, said times are hard for everybody.

"It's really tough right now," said Gouras. "People aren't coming in as much, people aren't in the square, and we're hurting because of that."

Gouras suggested the city look at ways to increase parking and cut down on traffic through the square.

Nancy Rachel Rousseau, president of the Mattapan Main Streets board, is confident that the organization will find an executive director soon and that it can make a positive impact on the neighborhood.

"We're very much at the beginning stages," Rousseau said. "Right now, we a defining the qualifications and requirements for the person we would like to hire [as our executive director]."

Rousseau said the all-volunteer group has also been working with local businesses and community leaders to define objectives for the organization.

"There are a number of areas we would like to focus on," Rousseau said. "The consensus is to create a business district that will attract members of the community and those outside of the community into the square."

According to Gilman, the city hopes to have an executive director in place by the summer, which will then allow access to available city funds.

"I think everything will eventually fall into place," said Rousseau. "We want to create a place where people are excited to come."

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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