This Is Framingham

This Is Framingham
Life in the 'ham

Religious storefronts

November 16th, 2007

Before I start this post I’d like to say:

A) I’m sorry about the length of time between posts.  I personally, like to read blogs that are updated more often as well.  I’ve been busy in other ‘hams like Bellingham and Waltham and haven’t had time to investigate much but hopefully things will slow down and I’ll get some  decent posts.

B) Since it has been known to happen that occasionaly readers misunderstand me, I’d like to say that the following post is in no way states that I don’t think people should practice religion or that going to church or synagogue or a mosque or temple of any sort is a bad thing.   That’s great people get something spiritual out of going to church and feeling a sense of community.

I’m posting about how I’ve noticed some religious organizations that occupy prime foot traffic, storefront spaces downtown. 

Used to be Clough’s Pharmacy

Next to the Salvation Army thift shop

Used to be Friendly’s, now a Mosque (I still mourn the walkable distance to a Fribble!)

Personally, I’d like to see retail stores or reaturants on the ground levels.   I know downtown has other problems and some people will say “Hey, it’s better than that space being abandoned”.  Which may be true, but when I walk down Moody St. in Waltham, there are so many small business, from grocers, to bookstores to restaurants to little giftie type shops.  There aren’t any churches, people don’t say “Oh Moody St. is great, there’s a church at every corner!”
Just something I’ve noticed when I walk around downtown, looking for something else to go to besides the few usual places I go.
I was also curious about how many places of worship are in the downtown area and counted 30.  Again, I’m not saying people shouldn’t have the right to pick their flavor of church or temple or whatever, that’s great, but I was surprised that there is a need/demand for 30 churches in a 1 mile radius.  I also wonder what the effect of so many churches on the town’s economy is being that they are tax exempt.  Maybe it’s not much if most of them are in rented space, I don’t know.


  1. The Friendly’s in downtown Framingham is a mosque now? WEIRD!! My friend and I used to get ice cream there after going to driver’s ed down the street.

    Comment by Michael November 16, 2007 @ 3:32 am

  2. I’m really split on this one! Admittedly, I have quite a bias since I’m a Protestant minister and since our church (located at the former U.A.W. Union Hall at 32 South Street) is TECHNICALLY in downtown Framingham. I think a certain number of churches DO add to a community and make a postive difference. Park Street Church, Tremont Temple Baptist Church, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral are all right off Boston Common in the Tremont Street area. Nobody says the churches “take up valuable retail space” or anything like that. On the other hand, is 30-plus churches in a 1 mile radius too many? Maybe. Many of the Portuguese-speaking churches use the name “Assemblies of God” but I happen to know about half of them use that name illegally and improperly. In all fairness, the Rev. Alberto Ferreira and his “Shalom Pentecostal Church” at the former Clough’s Pharmacy building ARE a legally recognized, bona fide, Assemblies of God church. I’ve preached there, through an interpreter, and I’ve enjoyed the exprience. I’m also friends wtih Fr. Krikor, the Armenian priest downtown. Are there TOO many storefront churches in downtown Framingham? To be honest, I think there are.

    Comment by Rev. Bob Baril November 16, 2007 @ 5:50 pm

  3. Rev Bob,

    Can you explain what you mean by using the name illegally and improperly? Does that mean that these are not “real” churches?

    Comment by Dave November 16, 2007 @ 7:50 pm

  4. If the churches moved out, they wouldn’t be replaced by Friendly’s etc. They would be vacant. As we recall, Friendly’s left.

    What kills downtown Framingham is the easy proximity of Rte. 9 retail and restaurants, pure and simple. If our downtown were farther away from such places, like Waltham’s is, then it might have a chance as a shopping and eating destination.

    It’s the same sad story all over America, really. Big box retailers and high-end malls put the small independent places that were a staple of downtowns like Framingham’s out of business. That’s their stated goal, their business plan.

    If the community- and ethnic-specific little places downtown left, what we’d have is a lot of boarded-up storefronts. In fact, I’ve seen stories in national media about small downtowns undergoing exactly that, when the anti-immigration message gets heard by the only people willing to rent space.

    I know Michelle you weren’t necessarily implying anything about these really big complicated issues (e.g. immigration, etc.). Like you, I’m not sure of what the solution is. I’m certainly not trying to start a fight or be polemical about it. Just trying to add some context.

    Comment by foppy November 16, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

  5. To Dave and others,

    Regarding my comment about “illegally and improperly”, the General Council of the Assemblies of God is headquartered nationally in Springfield, Missouri and locally in Charlton, Massachusetts. We have the right to our name and logo just as any corporation does. Many of the foreign churches are using the name and logo without permission. The AG considers such usage illegal and improper- and in fact, it is. A number of Brazilian churches were disfellowshiped from the Assemblies of God for false doctrine. Many still use the name “Assemblies of God” and even the logo although they are not part of the organization. SOME such churches may not have 501c3 status; some may not be legally incorporated; some may not have educated or Licensed of Ordained clergy, etc. It’s a complicated question and I am just scratching the surface, but I hope this helps.

    Comment by Rev. Bob Baril November 17, 2007 @ 2:45 am

  6. It is a myth that local business districts can’t prosper near malls. Look at this NY Times piece on San Jose, where a gritty downtown is coming back to life just 5 minutes from a spanking new luxury mall. Look at Newbury Street near Copley place.

    An increasing number of consumers are getting tired of cookie-cutter mall experiences. It’s not the 1960s anymore. Downtowns CAN compete with malls, by offering something different and attractive that malls can’t — a sense of place, the experience of walking around a pedestrian-friendly streetscape and seeing things you can’t see in a mall. Locally owned, one-of-a-kind businesses. Entertainment. Residential mixing with commercial mixing with retail. But you need a downtown that will “surprise and delight” — that offers something interesting and appealing from one shop window to the next (as well as general pedestrian appeal).

    I’m not a fan of too many non-retail use in the heart of a downtown retail district no matter what it is, whether it’s medical offices, insurance companies, banks, etc. You kill off the critical mass of stroll appeal.

    What makes many of these a problem for the retail district is the streetscape-killing “blank walls” — closed windows, shuttered windows, closed-curtained windows. That’s not what people want to see when they’re walking through a retail district. Given that they’re already here, my suggestion would be to see if we could encourage them to do something more interesting in their windows. Could we, say, arrange for them to show best of local student art in those windows? SOMETHING that makes it a fun experience to walk by and look at their windows?

    Comment by Sharon November 23, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

  7. Dave sez that what kills fham is the distance to Rt 9. So why is Natick and westboro doing so good? People want to go there and eat and shop. Dave needs a better reason.

    Comment by Evan F. November 23, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  8. There’s no reason downtown Framingham can’t undergo a renaissance. When my husband and I moved to Savannah, Georgia fifteen years ago, our downtown was mostly boarded up and dangerous, even during the day. Today, there’s a brilliant mix of antique and craft shops, upscale boutiques, restaurants, theaters and lofts. There are even stores you normally see in malls, like The Gap and Banana Republic. Of course, it helps to have an art school buying up and restoring buildings, but even so downtown Framingham could still be wonderful, with the right planning and redevelopment authority. Here’s ours:

    Comment by Catherine December 19, 2007 @ 12:21 am

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