For Amy Haelsen, it is “something that we’ve been dreaming about for a long time.”
Today Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Gregory Bialecki awarded Dedham a $1.3 million infrastructure grant, which will allow the town to fund phase 1 of the Dedham Square improvement project and make traffic and streetscape upgrades downtown.
The grant is a significant investment in Dedham Square’s future, as the economy recovers from a deep recession. Bialecki noted that this time around Massachusetts is leading – not lagging – the country in getting jobs back. The recovery will be based on private sector jobs and hiring by small businesses, and dozens of businesses in Dedham Square could potentially benefit from this project, he said.
Bialecki said the project is a great collaboration between the state and town, and between the public and private sector, through Dedham Square Circle. “It’s exactly the kind of local collaboration and partnership, inclusive partnership, that we’re trying to encourage and promote.”
The award comes after years of effort that began with Dedham Square Circle’s Engineering the Future campaign in 2007, and included two Public Works Economic Development Program grant applications. The state is giving Dedham a MassWorks Infrastructure Program grant, after it consolidated PWED and other infrastructure programs under the MassWorks umbrella.
Haelsen, the executive director of Dedham Square Circle, thanked Governor Deval Patrick, Lt. Governor Timothy Murray, Bialecki and Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan for selecting Dedham. She also thanked contributors to the Engineering the Future campaign, and the town staff her civic merchants’ group has partnered with on the project.
“Dedham Square Circle initiated the quest for the PWED grant over three years ago, and we are thrilled that our perseverance has paid off,” she said. “The Dedham Square Improvement Project will benefit all of Dedham. It will help make Dedham Square safer, it will create new jobs, bring new business, and encourage private investment, all of which will help the square continue to be the economically strong and vibrant center of our community.”
McMurtry, the owner of the Dedham Community Theatre and Dedham’s state representative, sketched out what the project will entail. “By receiving this PWED grant, we will now be able to successfully maintain and sustain continued economic growth in Dedham Square, including improving public safety, enhancing streetscape features, increasing retail opportunities, preserving local history and local culture, and most importantly, as Secretary Bialecki mentioned, an important priority of the Patrick-Murray administration – to create and preserve jobs,” he said.
The overall project to make over the Square has a $6 million price tag. Selectmen Chairman Sarah MacDonald said a federal earmark could be a possibility for phase II. “There may be an opportunity there to piece things together,” she said, calling the state grant “a huge milestone.”