The Braintree Chamber of Commerce welcomed Mayor Charles Kokoros to its annual address to the business community on May 4, 2021, by Zoom. The mayor discussed the budget, development plans, and master plan committee, and he took questions from members and guests via Chamber chair Kim Kroha.
-- On Braintree’s pandemic recovery: Kokoros attributes the town’s low Covid-19 case numbers to vaccinations and encouraged residents to get their shots. He looks forward to Phase 4, Step 2, of the reopening plan, which allows for indoor singing, road races, and parades, including the much-awaited return of Braintree Day on June 26.
“I’m really optimistic about where we go from here. People are ready to go out and do things and spend money.”
-- On budget shortfalls: The mayor submitted his proposed budget on April 22, which he describes as “very conservative” given revenue losses caused by the pandemic. Local receipts—including hotel/motel taxes, meals taxes and excise taxes—are down $2 million. State funding has been flat the last two years, and Braintree does not qualify as block-grant community so federal aid was only $3.69 million. The town is petitioning the state for additional aid.
-- On the Master Plan Steering Committee: This 11-member steering committee appointed by the mayor includes three small business owners. “We're trying to do all we can to help the small businesses and also the residents in forming this master plan to keep our small-town feel, but at the same time redevelop the business community,” Kokoros said. The steering committee will begin its work with an extended public comment period.
-- On development and the search for new revenue streams: The town is heavily courting life science businesses to set up shop in Braintree and may consider zoning overlays in the Wood Road commercial area, Kokoros reported.
Conversations with the South Shore Plaza’s former Lord & Taylor space are ongoing, and special permits have been granted for developments on Adams Street and Campanelli Drive.
“The virus led people to have desire to leave the city and move to the suburbs. We’re part of that market and we’re going to try to capitalize on that,” Kokoros said.
Asked by a Chamber member about finding common ground with developers regarding density developments given rising construction costs, Kokoros said the master plan committee will look at the issue. Life science companies seeking space in Braintree's commercial and industrial areas off the highway, such as Wood Road, may need more density or lot coverage, he added.
-- On development in the works: Kokoros is excited by the 44-unit housing complex on Allen Street, which will “completely change the look of Allen Street.” The town is also working to purchase 25 percent of units in nearby Windjammer Cove Apartments to designate as affordable. Both developments should help the town reach the state’s minimum requirement for affordable housing. Kokoros called the Armstrong Dam walking trails “an amazing project that enhances the marketability of that site and will be beautiful.”
-- On the former Motel 6 property: After multiple unsuccessful attempts to communicate with the owner of this blighted property, the town is working on an ordinance that would require commercial or residential owners to repair properties that fall into disrepair or else pay a fine. “We are going to focus is on is keeping our streets clean and our properties clean,” Kokoros said.
State Senator Keenan reports on “Reimagining Massachusetts”
The Chamber also heard from State Senator John Keenan, who complimented the mayor for his steady leadership. “Braintree’s in good shape. I think they’ve weathered the storm better than other communities and they’ve done it with limited resources.”
Keenan feels “cautious optimism” about a rebound in state revenues and said the legislature and governor are looking at creative solutions to control the costs of unemployment insurance.
-- On post-pandemic work and lifestyle priorities: The state senate is hosting listening sessions about what Massachusetts will look like after the pandemic, Keenan said. Many organizations are planning a permanent shift to remote work or hybrid onsite/remote work, which could change how workers choose where to live. Experts predict workers will expect more from their communities, including more recreational opportunities and vibrant business districts.
“The mayor’s focus on business districts in Braintree, I think, is right on,” Keenan said. “Braintree has so much going for it—recreation, active community volunteer opportunities, those business districts. Those are going to be very important to people, more so than in the past, as they find themselves spending more time in their communities.”
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