What would you like to see happen with Memorial Boulevard School?
If you look at downtown development research, arts and culture consistently emerges as a catalyst for new business. With that in mind, I would like to see the MBS Theater restored by the city and then operated in partnership with a theater management company/nonprofit. We need expertise to run the theater and bring high quality productions to Bristol to help enhance arts and culture within our city. The exact details of the partnership would need to be fleshed out and include provisions that allow local Bristol organizations/school group’s use of the theater. Additionally, I would like to see the city retain a portion of revenues to help with upkeep of the facility.
As far as the rest of the building, I am open to the idea of a magnet school but I don’t know how realistic it would be. The facility is large so I could see a variety of possibilities with a focus on local businesses – dance/art studios, science/robotics, culinary space, recreational classes, etc.
How do you feel about the progress of revitalizing the city’s downtown? What more should or can be done?
I believe this quote from the Washington State Main Street Program sums it up best, “Downtown is a reflection of how your community sees itself—a critical factor in business retention and recruitment efforts. When industry begins looking at your community as a possible location, they examine many aspects including the quality of life. Included in quality of life is interest in downtown — is it alive and viable, or does it represent local disinterest and failure?”
In my view, downtown revitalization efforts have been slow going. I certainly appreciate and want to acknowledge the ongoing efforts from the Bristol Development Authority including their work on gathering public input through community surveys and the efforts on marketing/branding “Centre Square.” But that said, we are branding a vacant parking lot with a patch of grass. I understand a downtown revitalization program is complex with many moving parts including organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring. Though a single project cannot revitalize downtown all on its own, the MBS theater/culture center could be a catalyst for reinvigorating the area as I mentioned in the previous question. That said, additional initiatives are needed to build community support and show that things are happening in downtown. This can range from smaller community based initiatives – expanding the farmers market, developing a free little library, planting trees/developing a small community garden or playground space. Bigger initiatives would include securing shops/restaurants.
I fully commit to the residents that I will work with all project stakeholders to move downtown initiatives forward.
Which phrase do you agree with… Bristol is a city on the rise or Bristol is a city in stagnation? Why do you feel that way? If it’s on the rise, what can be done to ensure that direction is maintained? If you feel it’s stagnant, how can we get ourselves “unstuck?”
Bristol has unlimited untapped potential. In my view, the best way to get “unstuck” is to bring in new leadership with fresh perspective. During my time as the City of Bristol’s aquatics director/recreation coordinator, I led the charge to bring new life to the programs/services being offered. Under my leadership, our parks and recreation team developed dozens of new programs and events – an adult swim team, Family Float nights and Teen Nights at the Dennis Malone Aquatics Center, a new pre-school camp, teen adventure camp, counselors in training program, and new water fitness classes. All of these programs saw growth under my leadership, the water fitness program grew from 40 participants to over 200 people by the time I left.