What’s Happening at East Somerville Main Streets

East SomervilleKellyn Morrow of ESH shows off some balancing skills on the Lyra (hoop) in East Somerville. Photo by Derek Kouyoumjian.

East Somerville Main Streets is hard at work supporting the neighborhood’s small businesses. The organization is focusing on three big tasks, according to Executive Director Teresa Vazquez-Dodero: making connections that benefit small businesses, helping companies make investments in the neighborhood, and making the Kensington Underpass safer.

Making Connections to Support Small Businesses

East Somerville Main Streets buys into the idea that “it takes a village,” according to Vazquez-Dodero. So when the owner of Rincón Mexicano wanted to expand into the vacant site next door, the organization drew in help.

Lorenzo Reyes, owner/chef at Rincón Mexicano, had a collection of items related to Frida Kahlo that he wanted to highlight in the expanded restaurant. PSG Framing helped him frame the pieces, even more challenging ones like a scarf. Kevin Jackson Carpentry built the tables. Tresfort Metal Works handled lighting. Cambridge Reprographics helped to repurpose signage.

Now the expanded Rincón Mexicano features Reyes’s collection, and displays what Vazquez-Dodero calls “an ode to Mexican women, specifically Frida Kahlo.”

“It contains, really, the soul of the owner, and it contains the connection between all of the businesses,” Vazquez-Dodero says. “That’s what we’ve been working on: the concept of community, in the really, really deeper sense.”

Corporate Investments in the Neighborhood

There’s a dirt patch outside of the East Somerville Community School that Vazquez-Dodero calls an “eyesore.” The school had been trying to revamp the area, but didn’t have promising prospects until Assembly Row’s Callahan Construction came along looking to make an investment in the community. The city is reviewing plans to revamp the area, according to Vazquez-Dodero.

“By connecting the corporate investment into the community, now the entire community’s together—there’s corporate investment, there’s the parents of the school, and the city, working together to recreate this into an amazing project,” she says.

Transforming the Kensington Underpass

East Somerville Main Streets is working to transform the Kensington Underpass, which can isolate residents because of how dangerous it is to walk through.

In a simple but major move, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation changed the traffic signal at the underpass from constantly flashing yellow lights to typical traffic lights that direct cars to stop when a pedestrian is crossing.

East Somerville Main Streets is hoping to use state funding to make further changes to the Kensington Underpass, and is working with architecture and design students to explore options.

There are homeless individuals who live in the Kensington Underpass, Vazquez-Dodero says, and East Somerville Main Streets is working with the Somerville Homeless Coalition to explore options for those people, such as creating housing out of shipping containers, as part of the changes to the underpass.

Vazquez-Dodero says the organization also hopes to bring more art to the underpass area, from paintings on the ground to murals to projected art.

This story originally appeared in the Do Gooders, Key Players, and Game Changers issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout the city or by subscription.

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