Downtown Reading Initiatives
Priority Development Area Goals
These initiatives are guided by the Reading Economic Development Action Plan (EDAP) 2016-2022, which recommends the following actions for the Town to pursue in this geographic area:
- Build community and activate the public realm in Downtown Reading through cultural economic development and placemaking initiatives
- Enhance walkability and connectivity within the Town
- Attract and retain existing local businesses
- Brand and market Reading to attract new investment and customers
- Promote public/private partnerships and collaboration
- Adopt local policies and practices that will facilitate compact development and mixed-use in transit accessible areas
- Local Rapid Recovery Plan
- Reading Business Improvement District
- Haven Street Pocket Park
- Bistro Table Program
- Artbox Mural Program
- ReImagine Reading Public Engagement
- Wayfinding and Branding
- Bistro Light Public Art Installation
Click on the project tabs to learn more about each Downtown initiative.
The Town of Reading received a grant from the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative to participate in the Local Rapid Recovery Plan (LRRP) program to develop an actionable, project-based economic recovery plan for downtown Reading. The Town of Reading was one of 125 participating municipalities in this grant funded program.
This program included the following elements:
- Downtown business outreach and engagement which included one-on-one outreach to businesses, property owners, and community organizations; a survey to identify customer needs; a survey to identify business trends and needs; public forums and presentations
- Analysis of challenges, barriers, opportunities and actions
- Best practice case study webinars
- Project-based recovery plans tailored to Reading's downtown customer and business needs
Local Rapid Recovery Plan and Presentation
- Reading's Downtown Local Rapid Recovery Plan (PDF)
- Local Rapid Recovery Plan Final Presentation (starts 36:25)
Public Engagement Data and Public Forum
- Business Survey Results Report (PDF)
- Local Rapid Recovery Presentation (PDF)
- Local Rapid Recovery Survey Presentation
The Town of Reading received a $60,000 grant from the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative to receive technical assistance for this initiative. This program was developed as part of the Baker Polito Recovery Plan.
In 2020, ReImagine Reading public engagement led to the creation of a business improvement district (BID) steering committee. This group is not a governmental organization or committee. It is a private partnership of downtown property owners, businesses, and residents working together with public grant supported technical assistance. This group is working to establish a professional business improvement district (BID) to actively fund, manage, and provide supplemental services and programs for downtown Reading.
What is a Business Improvement District (BID)?
A Business Improvement District, or BID, is a special assessment district, allowed by M.G.L. c.40O, which property owners of the district pool resources to collectively purchase and manage supplemental services and programs for the benefit of the district. There are currently 10 communities in Massachusetts with BIDs. Examples include: Amherst, Hudson, and Central Square.
Anticipated Reading BID Services and Programs
- Cultural Placemaking
- Marketing and Branding
- Business Support and Recruitment
Why a BID for Reading?
For years, the Town has identified a need to promote public/private partnerships and collaboration and create a multi-stakeholder group to be a champion for downtown Reading. Successful downtowns and commercial areas are actively managed hubs of activities that contribute to it's economic vitality. Downtown Reading has potential to be a destination and is experiencing significant investment with the recent emergence of new downtown residents and businesses. A professional BID will help to create a vibrant, attractive, and sustainable downtown Reading for the future and directly help local businesses recovery from pandemic impacts.
- Reading Business Improvement District Website
- Contact: ReadingBID@gmail.com
BID Committee In the News and Around Town
Select Board Economic Development Update January 2022 (Presentation starts at 1:06)
BID Presentation Economic Development Summit 2021 (Presentation starts at 1:04)
Technical assistance funding was provided by the Executive Office of Housing and Community Development's Massachusetts Downtown Initiative Program (MDI) and the MassDevelopment Real Estate Services Technical Assistance Program.
- MDI FY23 - Pending (as of Sept. 2022) - $25,000
- MassDevelopment TA FY21 - $25,000
- MDI FY20 - $25,000
- MDI FY19 - $15,000 - ReImagine Reading Public Engagement
Welcome to Haven Street Pocket Park at 52 Haven Street!
The Town's Economic Development Division worked in partnership with Reading DPW to install a seasonal pocket park on the sidewalk at 52 Haven Street. A pocket park is a mini public park that provides a variety of amenities for all to enjoy.
The Haven Street Pocket Park includes public art, rain barrels, bistro tables, solar lanterns and lights, and flower planters for all to enjoy.
The professional team that helped to design and install components of the park included landscape designer Lauri Johnson of Lauri Johnson Landscape Design. Lauri specializes in designing landscapes in a variety of commercial and residential settings. Rain barrel murals were painted by professional muralist Anna Dugan of Anna Does a Thing. Her artwork celebrates her heritage through colors, patterns, and storytelling. Her work elevates public spaces across New England and we are honored to have her original commissioned art bring vibrancy to this pocket park.
Thank you to the Town's DPW and Engineering Department for their technical support and assistance.
This pocket park was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 14, 2022.
The goal of this project is to create a destination and draw customers to downtown businesses.
This project was funded by Town Economic Development funds.
The Town has placed twelve bistro table sets on sidewalks near local businesses in downtown. The Town continues to add additional seating options in the downtown. Area businesses voluntarily manage and maintain tables that are adjacent to the business.
Bistro table locations:
- Last Corner Cafe (High Street)
- Professor's Market (Main Street)
- Fusion Cafe (Main Street)
- Drew's Stews (Main Street)
- PDA Dental (Haven Street)
- Fat Larry's (Haven Street)
- Haven Street Pocket Park 52 Haven Street
This program was deployed in response to the pandemic to support local businesses and encourage people to gather in downtown Reading.
In the News
This program was funded by Town Economic Development funds.
Think outside the box! That is what the Town of Reading, MA Planning and Economic Development Division team is doing through this public art program. In 2020, the Town issued a call to artists to submit original ideas to paint or wrap Town owned utility boxes in the downtown. Artists applications were then reviewed by a small committee of Town staff and volunteers and selected artists were contracted with the Town and received an $800 stipend to cover the cost of the artists time, paints, and other materials. Seven original pieces of art were commissioned. The artists chosen to have their work featured included: Catherine Johnson, Kim Garrity Matthews, Megan Coram, Ruth Clark, Matt Baynes, Ethan Bennett, and Steve Greco.
Public art is one of many tools to foster economic vitality and community connection. This program is designed to inspire community creativity, support creative placemaking initiatives, and draw foot-traffic to downtown local businesses. The Outside the Box Mural Program brings public art to unexpected places and allow everyone to access art.
In the News
- Outside the Box Mural Project Debuts Downtown (PDF)
- Boston Globe - Online Map Leads to Reading's Artboxes (PDF)
This project was funding by Town allocated Economic Development funds and funds from the Reading Historical Commission.
Since at least 2007, Town reports and studies have made recommendations to “explore the possibility of creating/identifying an entity to focus on downtown revitalization” and “establish a new economic development partnership” to help manage downtown Reading. In 2018, at the Town's Economic Development forum, the public again identified a need for a multi-stakeholder group to be a champion for downtown Reading.
ReImagine Reading Public Engagement
In 2019, the Town launched a significant grant funded public engagement process to explore community priorities and consider different types of downtown district management organization types that could bring these community needs to fruition. Engagement methods included:
- 35 one-on-one discussions with individual property owners, organization leaders, business owners, and neighborhood advocates.
- Building a network of interested people who wanted to learn more about this initiative
- Over 130 individuals participated in working group public forums in June, September, November, December of 2019 and January 2020.
- An ice cream and pizza social with more than 100 visitors
- A robust Town administered survey via postcards, QR technology, Town website, social media, door-to-door administration, working with other community organizations, and soliciting commuters at the train station. 1,538 people responded!
- Three communities visited Reading and participated in a public forum to talk about the benefits and details of different types of downtown organizations (Beverly Main Streets, Wakefield Main Streets, Hudson Business Improvement District)
Reading Business Improvement District
ReImagine Reading public engagement led to the creation of a business improvement district (BID) steering committee. This group is not a governmental organization or committee. It is a private partnership of downtown property owners, businesses, and residents working together with public grant supported technical assistance. This group is working to establish a professional business improvement district (BID) to actively manage and provide supplemental services and programs for downtown Reading.
See "Reading Business Improvement District" project tab for more information about their work.
Documents and Presentations
- ReImagine Reading Initiative Update to Select Board (PDF)
- ReImagine Reading Survey Results (PDF)
- ReImagine Reading Ice Cream Social Presentation (PDF)
- Finding the Right Fit- Downtown Management Organization Types Presentation (PDF)
Technical assistance funding was provided by the Executive Office of Housing and Community Development's Massachusetts Downtown Initiative Program.
The goals of this project were to develop a brand and provide better signage in downtown Reading that highlights businesses and public parking areas. The need for a downtown brand and wayfinding signage was identified in the Town's Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool (EDSAT) (PDF), which identified the Town’s strengths and weaknesses in sustaining economic growth.
Documents and Reports
This initiative was funded by $15,000 a Massachusetts Downtown Initiative grant (FY17).
The Economic Development Division has explored opportunities to provide a temporary decorative lighting installation on lower Haven Street, at the sidewalk bump out in front of PDA Dental (52 Haven Street). While we hoped to have a bold and visionary temporary lighting project, we saw an exciting longer term, more permanent opportunity to integrate this design and engineering work into the upcoming designs for the Haven Streetscape Improvement Project. The Haven Streetscape Improvement Project concepts were presented at October 4, 2021 Economic Development Summit and we hope to move forward with further design work in the next year or so.
Alternatively, we are excited to have been able to pivot to the design and installation of a pocket park on this site. See Haven Street Pocket Park for more details.
The goal of this project is to create a destination, draw customers to downtown businesses, and provide ambient lighting requested by customers and businesses alike on lower Haven Street.