Published in the March 17, 2016 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The “charming, walkable layout” found in downtowns like Wakefield are what lifestyle centers like MarktetStreet in Lynnfield are trying to recreate.

That’s what consultant Peg Barringer told the Board of Selectmen this week when she presented the results of her “Market Assessment and Business District Analysis” of downtown Wakefield. The Board of Selectmen commissioned the market study of the downtown, which was done last fall.

Town Planner Raul Reavis introduced Barringer at Monday’s meeting.

Barringer is a partner and Director of Economic Development Consulting at FinePoint Associates, LLC. She has 29 years of experience and has worked with more than 200 communities. She is also an adjunct professor at Tufts University Graduate Department of Urban and Environmental Policy & Planning.

Barringer said that she looked at the customer base in and around Wakefield’s downtown, delineating primary and secondary “trade areas” consisting of residents living within a two and three-mile radius of the downtown. She said that the market in those trade areas was growing faster than the the state’s overall rate of growth.

She said that 60 percent of the trade (goods purchased) is being captured within the primary (two-mile) trade area, while 40 percent is “leakage” (goods purchased outside of the trade area).

She said that the 7 percent commercial vacancy rate in Wakefield’s downtown compares favorably to the national rate of 9 percent.

Barringer recommended viewing the downtown as more than just a shopping area. She said that shoppers today are looking for more of an “experience” — to attend a cultural event or have a meal. “Think of downtown as a social place,” she advised.

She said that people will stay longer if there are spots to sit and gather or events to attend. Studies have shown that when people attend events they will visit at least two businesses or at least become aware of what businesses are there.

She recommended leveraging attractions like the Lake by cross promoting the downtown at Lake events to highlight a link to downtown businesses.

Some of Barringers other recommendations included:

– Targeting one area or “node” of the downtown at a time for improvement. The result can encourage other areas to upgrade as well.

– Cluster businesses that complement one another.

– Encourage businesses to do “multi-channel selling” (in-store and online).

– Create a business recruitment brochure.

– Create a restaurant guide for distribution to venues like hotels, etc.

– Develop a smart phone “app” that can be used to discover what’s available in the downtown.

– Make sure the downtown looks “open and welcoming” with hours posted on businesses.

Selectman Tiziano Doto asked if the presentation had been given to business owners.

Town Planner Paul Reavis said that the presentation had been given at several open public meetings which were advertised, but agreed that more could probably be done.

The full Downtown Wakefield Market Assessment Report is available on the town’s website at under “Town News.”


In other business this week, the Board of Selectmen:

• Approved a Class II used car dealer license for Wakefield Auto gallery at 506 Main St.

• Approved a request for the Council on Aging to accept and expend $1,339 in gifts from various donors.

• Approved a request from Lucius Beebe Memorial Library to accept and expend $7,381 in gifts from various donors.