Where is Main Street Beverly?

Western Avenue. 103rd Street. 95th Street. 99th Street. Which on is Beverly’s “true” main street?

It’s a question I’m asked frequently by readers of this blog and others who learn about it through our conversations. Many people insist on labeling 103rd or Western as the neighborhood’s main street. Or, they assume that since I live near 95th and often write about it that I’m anointed that thoroughfare as Beverly’s main street. I’ve probably even referred to some of these from time to time as our main street.

But if I am being true to the spirit of this blog and the mission I laid out three years ago when I started it, the answer to the question, “Where is Main Street Beverly?” is, “Everywhere.”

You see, Main Street Beverly isn’t a place — it’s an idea, an ethos, a philosophy about what a community is, how it looks, how it functions, and how it supports the people who call it home. It’s also the inverse. It’s about the people who shape it — the residents, business owners, civic leaders, and policy makers.

The underlying philosophy of this blog and every piece posted on it has always been that the traditional pattern of development, the one you see when you look at Main Street, U.S.A., or any pre-World War II city throughout the world, provides a strong foundation for building and sustaining a healthy, productive, and stable community of diverse people. It is a place that is fiscally sound and supports a strong social and civic fabric.

When we break down the components of the traditional development pattern, we see common elements that include, but are not limited to:

  • Walkability (pedestrian safety and comfort; convenience and accessibility of destinations)
  • Adaptability
  • Incremental growth
  • Diverse uses, mixed together

All the other neighborhood components people love to wring their hands over, from population density and building height to public transit and bike-friendliness, stem from those foundational elements.

And the best way to lay a solid foundation — or in the case of many communities, stabilize a damaged foundation — is through policy and legislation. That means substantial change will come by tackling zoning, financing, and other forms of regulation.

You could almost say Main Street Beverly is more about policy than place. Or at least it’s about the policy of place.

But remember how I also said Main Street Beverly is also about the people? They just might be the most important elements in this whole philosophy. Improvement comes from the bottom up, not the top down.

A community’s physical character, as well as the laws that govern that character, should reflect the values of all the people who live and work there, not the will of a powerful few.

Main Street Beverly is a philosophy that either lives and prospers or shrivels and dies based on people’s willingness to not just consider it but also better it. In that sense, it has the potential to be bigger than just one particular street. It could shape the entire neighborhood if we want.

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