The Town of Stoneham spent 2014 working with a consulting team from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and an advisory committee of local stakeholders to develop a five-year Strategic Action Plan for Stoneham Square, the town center of Stoneham.
One of the 40 recommendations of the plan was to form a neighborhood group to represent resident interests. An informal initial meeting was convened in the winter of 2015 to discuss the possibility of a neighborhood group. This small group continued to meet over the spring and summer and then, in August 2015, held a kick off meeting of an ad hoc group called the Stoneham Square Neighborhood Group. SSNG met monthly.
A second recommendation of the plan was to focus on public transportation improvements. Beginning in May 2015, a group of stakeholders from the private and public sectors began meeting together as the Stoneham Transportation Advisory Committee. STAC created “The Short List,” a package of our top priorities for MBTA service changes and worked with State Representative Michael Day to expand operating hours of the 132 bus, Stoneham’s only bus. Since then, STAC has supported a number of other transportation projects as well.
A third recommendation was to organize local merchants in the Stoneham Square district. In response, the Stoneham Chamber of Commerce formed the Stoneham Square Merchant Group, a group that has met regularly since 2015 to improve conditions for business operators.
Finally, a fourth group, the Stoneham Square Advisory Committee, has also met periodically since 2015. SSAC created a matrix that puts all 40 recommendations on one page. When SSAC meets, they monitor progress on those recommendations. Local live event artist, Sheila Foley, came to a meeting and surprised us all by turning the matrix into artwork.
Strategic Action Plan artwork courtesy of Sheila Foley.
Over time, as these four groups continued to meet on an ad hoc basis, the possibility of forming a nonprofit organization to increase our financial and legal capacity began to make sense. In early 2015, we wanted to see if there was a committed group of volunteers in the community who would stay engaged. Once we knew this to be true, it was time to move forward with formation of the CDC in 2017. We developed a relationship chart to explain how our groups relate to one another.