Reading Looking to Grow Its Commercial Base
Oct 11, 2018 11:10PM
● By Dan Marra
It’s no secret Reading needs to add to its commercial tax base. With commercial properties making up only 8 percent of the town’s tax base, Reading ranks among the lowest in the state.
It’s one of the reasons Reading will be holding a downtown economic development meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Reading library. Among topics to be discussed – the meeting will focus on parking in the downtown region, as well as project updates on the five developments currently under construction in the center.
For the businesses in the downtown area, parking, like in most communities, is always a difficult subject. But according to Matt Kraunelis, assistant town manager in Reading, the center has enough spaces, it’s just educating residents where that parking is.
“We need more visible parking,” Kraunelis said. “We’re finding there’s parking available, but because it’s a little off the path people don’t tend to look outside of the immediate center parking area.”
Another way the town is looking to develop the downtown area is through mixed-use developments, creating what Kraunelis has called “urban villages” – a combination of shops and housing. Currently, Reading has five such developments in the downtown area under construction - Reading Village (68 units), Schoolhouse Commons (20 units), Postmark Square (50 units), 24 Gould Street (55 units) and 467 Main Street (31 units).
“People want to live close to where they work and shop,” Kraunelis said.
Increasing the commercial base is something that has the support of the Chamber of Commerce as well.
“The town needs additional funding and increasing the commercial base is key to helping the tax issues in town,” said Lisa Egan, executive director of the Reading Chamber of Commerce, referring to Reading’s recent override. “Just increasing the base from 8 to 10 percent can increase revenue significantly. And growing commercially can really help offset the residential taxes.”
While she agrees that parking is a concern, the new developments in the downtown area can really help local businesses.
“Post Mark Square has the potential to be an awesome anchor,” Egan said. “The way to get out of our current tax cycle is to grow commercially. Parking is always an issue, but if the town can continue to bring in the right types of development, it will greatly help the downtown area.”