Tisbury Center Gets New Look

Officials Will Present Bold Plans to Beautify Main Street Area Beginning Early Next Spring at Annual Town Meeting


At the annual town meeting in April of 2002, the Tisbury Business Association, working with the town's public works department, will present preliminary designs for an ambitious program to improve Tisbury's appearance.

Town officials are planning to dig up sections of town roads and sidewalks next fall to lay sewer pipes for the new wastewater system. The business association and department of public works have launched the Main street beautification project, realizing that next fall is the opportune time to make improvements to the town's infrastructure.

DPW director Fred LaPiana said the construction period for the sewer system will begin no earlier than next September.

"With the new sewer system, it occurred to us that this is the time that we want to start cleaning up the town," said Jeff Kristal, president of the business association. The cleanup involves, but is not limited to, burying some of the electrical wires, putting gas lanterns on Main street, resurfacing sidewalks and creating different traffic designs.

Every Friday this summer, Mr. LaPiana and TBA members Mr. Kristal, Tom Richardson and Larry Gomez have met at Terrain Associates to discuss the project.

Architect Jamie Weisman of Terrain Associates of Vineyard Haven was chosen to develop the initial plans. He will take into consideration local input and response from interested groups including the Tisbury Historical Society, the harbor committee and the Martha's Vineyard Commission. The DPW expects to have a final contractual agreement with Mr. Weisman this week. The contract will be with the town, specifically with the board of public works commissioners. State money, approved by Mass Highways, will be used to pay for the drafts.

The business group initiated the beautification project in the spring by talking with town administrator Dennis Luttrell. Mr. Luttrell said there was a good chance to receive grants to cover the bulk of the project's cost.

"The board of public works commissioners, along with the board of selectmen," said Mr. LaPiana, "saw a definite reason to commit some funding to try and facilitate an overall design and picture of what Main street would look like. And we are looking to sign a contract with Mr. Weisman to do that."

Mr. Weisman said he would put a box outside his office for anyone to drop off suggestions.

"Once we get the design side of this accomplished and we get the feedback, then the next step is to get funding," said Mr. Richardson. "The ultimate goal is to present on the town floor a project that requires little tax-based funding, but rather grant funding."

The scope of the project addresses the area from Wind's Up on Beach Road, over to Owen Park and up to the cemetery on State Road.

"From the smallest detail of should curb stones have a sharp edge or a soft edge, should a sidewalk be concrete, brick or cobblestone, should there be street trees, we have an opportunity to address these questions," said Mr. Weisman.

A great opportunity will come when the town-owned A&P parking lot is ripped up during the sewer project. "If you were in charge when the A&P parking lot was going to be ripped up and then it was going to be put back together, would you just do it the same way?" wondered Mr. Weisman. "Or is there some other way to keep the same use and make it better?"

These are some of the questions that must be asked for every section of downtown. "We, at this point, are not trying to come to conclusions," said Mr. Weisman. "Right now we are trying to gather information, such as photographs, maps, zoning laws, handicap accessibility, and we are going to gather information from the populace. The point is to gather all this information and then when we have enough we are going to start with the output."

When it comes to dealing with utility poles and wires, Mr. LaPiana said Nstar, the Island's power provider, will work with the DPW to develop plans for burying or relocating utility lines.

Owners of downtown businesses will have a chance to fix up their buildings as well. "One of the things we are also doing is partnering with Compass Bank, which is putting together a loan package to assist these buildings downtown. If this is the time we are ripping up the streets, putting in sidewalks, putting in gas lanterns, upgrading the electrical systems to their building, maybe it is time that vinyl siding comes off the building," said Mr. Kristal.

The project already has a certain tone. "We don't want the town to look like Edgartown or Nantucket," said Mr. Weisman. "I think what everybody means by that is that if you go to Nantucket, you have the feeling like you are in a stage set. It is too perfect, it is not comfortable."

"There are a whole host of things that the project is going to include and look at," said Mr. Kristal. "We realize some of the pieces are contentious. But that is where the public comes in with their input. If there is something here that people just don't agree with or want, then it won't be there. This is everybody's table to sit around."