Mission Hill, are you listening? Brigham Circle is glistening…after a beautiful sight of hundreds of neighbors gathering at Brigham Circle on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to kick off the City of Boston’s annual “Holidays on Main Streets” festivities. The plaza at One Brigham Circle provided for a festive setting, while Mother Nature held off the raindrops for Mayor Menino to perform his swansong decree promoting neighborhood holiday shopping. All 20 Boston Main Street Directors presented a Santa sack full of toys and then serenaded hizzoner in song. Some excerpts of the ditty are highlighted in italics throughout this column.
Ditch the traffic congestion, take this savvy suggestion-avoid the mall throng, have fun, come along, shopping on these Main Street Holidays, went some of the advice to folks. On this evening with Mayor Menino, we promote this civic buying spree. Tom says, “Take home bargains, help your neighbors, by saving time and shopping locally.”
The decorated stage featured the melodic talents of Boston Latin School’s two a cappella choirs, the Wolf-Tones and Wolfettes, who amazed those assembled with the harmonics of their professional stagecraft. These “best and brightest” Boston kids showed how vastly superior they are to many college chorales. It shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve had any exposure to the brilliant youngsters attending America’s oldest public high school housed in our neighborhood.
For the past 32 years, Neighborhood Children’s Theatre of Boston has trained thousands of talented Boston school children in grades 1-12 for musical theater productions, and approximately 60 of their current ensemble performed their holiday numbers and led those assembled in Christmas caroling. Guided by Michelle McCourt and choreographed by my eldest daughter Elizabeth, many of these kids have gone on to star in collegiate and amateur theater companies and several have continued onto the Broadway stage. Jamaica Plain-bred actor Joey McIntyre is probably their most famous alumnus, and both he and the group performed at the Boston Common Tree Lighting on television this year. I may be biased, but I thought they were better at our Mission Hill event.
Local businesses helped out, with Dermot Doyne donating hundreds of Penguin Pizza slices to the performers and providing hot cider to the visitors. Brigham and Women’s community honcho John McGonagle and its Security Director and former Boston College star running back Earl Strong dished out goodies produced from the hospital’s kitchens. As always, Elizabeth Silveira from Dunkin’ Donuts and Maria Weinograd from Mike’s Donuts provided the hot coffee and cocoa to warm the revelers. Great Hill Dental set up a table and provided free toothbrushes, floss and toys for the kiddos. Wesley Williams and his crew at Lincoln Properties always keep their One Brigham Circle location immaculate and decorated tastefully throughout the year.
Boston’s Office of Business Development contracted magicians, balloon artists, a DJ, face-painters and holiday-costumed characters who accompanied Councilor Michael Ross and our District Councilor-elect Josh Zakim in working the crowd, and an appearance was made by the Big Guy himself, Santa Claus, topping off the evening. Thanks to all those who helped. When the yuletide’s abated, you’ll be feeling elated—you know you’re not wrong, you’ve shopped “Boston strong,” celebrating main streets holidays!
As we go to print, I’ve observed many neighborhood merchants outdoing themselves decorating storefronts. Clever holiday designs can be seen on Brigham Circle Chinese Food, Fuentes Market, the Squealing Pig, The Crossing bar, Mike’s Donuts, and Green T Coffeeshop. Tony O’Brien from Flann’s always goes over the top for the holidays, and I detect another battle of the window paintings between the Mission Bar and Penguin Pizza (both fail to disappoint and we’ll see who comes out ahead this year). SoulFire Barbeque just installed its new storefront signage and I’m sure its décor will be red hot. Boston Green Realty got into the act, with owner Leland Demeco contracting a group of local children from the Tobin Center to decorate his windows (he’s got a good handle on what this neighborhood appreciates). Whoever the finalists are, I think we’ll have a good shot at winning this year’s Deck the Windows contest. Homes throughout the Hill are acquiring a festive flavor, and the Huntington Avenue residence of Mass. College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences President Charlie Monahan could qualify as a Currier and Ives print.
As the end of 2013 approaches, there is much reason for optimism and hope for Mission Hill. The recent selection of a developer for the Art Park site portends a dramatic transformation for that parcel that I believe will be on the cutting edge of urban design for the entire region. The Clutch Works site has been fenced off for demolition. I’ll miss former owner Arnie Pressman, but I can’t say the same for that yellow brick building. Local developer Jason Savage and his partners listened to their neighbors and a much nicer project will be forthcoming. The Serenity project will transform that long neglected lot and the neighborhood could not be in more thoughtful capable hands than those of three fine gentlemen, the Nader brothers. New leadership at City Hall commences with the inaugurals of Mayor Marty Walsh and Councilor Josh Zakim, and the commercial viability of Mission Hill is thriving. We all pray for greater peace throughout the world and joy and goodwill to everyone for 2014.
The writer is the executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets.