Bridgewater Town Manager Michael Dutton said the town is aggressively looking at trying to improve their commercial base.
According to Dutton, residential development has not been an issue. In fact, two residential development projects are currently approaching: a 40b project off of Pleasant Street of roughly 20 homes, and the other, referred to as the “Pratt Town Project,” off of Plymouth Street, includes about 50 single family homes.
“We have a significant number of new homes coming online,” Dutton said, “Fortunately they’re owner-occupied homes.”
Dutton acknowledged that there has been a huge amount of development in town in the past 20 years, but one of the challenges is that it’s not nearly the same amount of commercial development as it is residential. “Additional tax burden falls on the residential community,” he said.
Dutton talked about the difficulties of trying to now improve the town’s commercial base.
“Our challenge with trying to improve a commercial base is our limited amount of commercially zones land,” Dutton said, “We’ll work with developers on trying to maximize the use of that land, we’ll work with developers to come up with ways that could be beneficial for them to relocate to Bridgewater and we’re constantly looking at ways we can do things better in order to promote commercial development.”
Dutton acknowledged that perhaps there could be vertical development if they don’t have the land space. “That’s something we’d have to look into,” he said.
Dutton said the town is about to embark on a long-awaited self- assessment of their commercial viability, sometime around the end of March or beginning of April.
“Essentially, we ask a consultant to come in and assess our zoning by-laws, asses our demographics, assess our zoning and availability of open commercial space,” Dutton explained,”And then [we can] come to some kind of determination about what we could do better in order to attract good, solid commercial development.”
Dutton added that the town has done a lot of the “leg work” on this already. They’ve asked the Dukakis Center at Northeastern University to come in and “spearhead” the initiative.
Dutton said the exciting thing about it is it’s a “community effort.” Real estate professionals, business people, Bridgewater State University representatives, and town employees will all be asked to come and give their input and get a good gage for what the “barriers” to commercial development in Bridgewater really are.
Dutton also recognized that the first step will be to get everyone on the same page. “I think for some people it’ll be very eye-opening,” he said, ” and I think for others it might demonstrate that Bridgewater is not as ‘business unfriendly’ as people might have thought.”