Date of Award

1981

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Community Planning

First Advisor

Dieter Hammerschlag

Abstract

The Town of Merrimac is located approximately 35 miles north of Boston on the New Hampshire border. Merrimac developed as a small industrial town and became prosperous during the latter part of the nineteenth century, as a center for the manufacture of horsedrawn carriages.

Merrimac Square, the area selected for study, was the focus of activity during these years. Established on the Square were carriage finding houses, the carriage shops themselves, an elegant town hall building donated by a well-to-do native and many fine homes of the carriage business entrepreneurs. Today, many of these structures remain, strongly reinforcing Merrimac's historic heritage and providing charm and character to the area.

While the carriage industry waned near the turn of the century, with the advent of the automobile, the Square continued to be the institutional and commercial center of Merrimac well into the first half of the twentieth century. During the fifties and sixties however, Merrimac Square merchants began to experience economic difficulties resulting from increased competition with suburban shopping centers in surrounding communities. Consequently, downtown Merrimac started to decline--a fate not uncommon to older central business districts.

Today, obvious signs of decline are present, evidenced by the deterioration of buildings, vacant storefronts, underutilized space, and a fairly rapid rate of business turnover.

Some efforts have been made in the past ten years, by enthusiastic civic, volunteer groups and merchants, to improve the conditions of Merrimac Square. A new comprehensive and bold revitalization strategy involving both the private and public sector is necessary however, to reverse persistent downward trends and stabilize the area, as the viability of the Square is essential to the overall economy and well-being of the town. It is hoped that this report will be the first step in that renewal process.

The overall purpose of this report is to assess the physical and economic conditions of the Square and develop specific strategies for directing future revitalization efforts. Chapter

Two provides _background information and a community profile to set the framework for viewing the problems of the Square. Chapter Three includes a comprehensive analysis of population trends, historic resources, physical conditions, land use, zoning, traffic circulation, parking economic and market potential social concerns and consumer attitudes. Specific goals and recommendations (accompanied .by sketches and maps) for addressing these issues are provided in Chapter Four. Finally, Chapter Five includes strategies for implementing recommendations, as well as information on available funding and financing mechanisms.

The information and data contained in this report should be used as a resource by the town, for future planning activities as well as a basis for federal grants-in-aid.

While this study is only the beginning of Merrimac Square's revitalization process - an assessment of what is, with re commendations for what could be - it is hoped that this report will broaden the awareness of the townspeople and stimulate interest in meeting the challenges that lie ahead.

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