by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 10/2014
This is not the Foxboro I remember.
Good golly Miss Molly how many times have we heard/read that?
It seems like every week there’s a battle brewing about this or that change to the town, and the latest debate/discussion/battle is town hall. But like most hot-button issues, our town hall issue will be settled at some point in the future, and we will move onto something else. And then something after that.
With town hall getting so much press (a lot of it negative) I’d like to jog your memories a little bit about the good old days, getting things done, and progress.
You all know I didn’t grow up here but I have lived here half my life – even back in 1991, I knew I’d be living the rest of my life here because there was a lot to love about Foxboro — The people. The sense of family and community. The town and its proud history. You have heard me say it a hundred times. This is a great place to live.
But given the negativity I often read online and in this very paper (especially about the town hall subject (and other town/infrastructure improvements)
Well, the negativity gets to me sometimes.
So today I thought I would remind you of some of the progress we have made in twenty short years, repeat that things take time, and why I have good hope for our future.
And let me be VERY clear: Before we go further, I am NOT saying Foxboro was a dump when I moved in – in 1991 it certainly was GORGEOUS and I knew five minutes here I would live here the rest of my life. Some things have never changed: The town is beautiful, quiet, and safe. Then and now, the people are awesome, there is a sense of community family other towns can only dream about; we have countless groups and organizations whose mandate is to help others, and that spirit of community helping community has only increased since I moved here. I love that.
But was it perfect? Were the good old days really that great? Hmmmm. Come with me now as I jump in my magic time machine to take a quick drive through the early 1990s.
So in a flash of light, my time machine tells me it’s the 1990s and I am driving around Foxboro Common. It’s beautiful but I sure wish there was a concert or something there once in a while. Doesn’t seem to be a lot of summer activities around here, at least that I am aware of. Roads need some work too.
And that Boch building sure is ugly. And uninhabited. I guess folks have been complaining about if for years before I moved here. What an eyesore on Central Street!
Town Hall is pretty on the outside, but I feel bad for the police, stuck in that dingy basement, and the firefighters, occupying equally old and depressing quarters up the street. Those places look ancient. And they are probably unhealthy and unsafe. Our protectors deserve better.
That old Van Dora nursing home has been abandoned a long time. Must have been great in its day, but now it’s empty. So sad.
Speaking of senior citizens, I feel bad for the seniors of Foxboro — every year they get shuffled to some new school room or tiny space for their meetings and activities. Wouldn’t it be great to have a place they could call home? I hear there is some effort on that idea. We shall see.
Oh, man, Alves just closed. Foxboro doesn’t have a supermarket anymore.
Boyden Library is excellent, but let’s be honest — it is NOT an attractive building. Sure needs to be modernized, inside and out.
The post office off the common looks so old, so “1960s.” And it’s so cramped.
And the kids I talk to here in the 1990s are so bored. They really say that – they are BORED. There’s school sports, of course, but not much else to do here in town, nowhere to go, no mall or anything, they tell me.
I drive my time machine up Chestnut to the old abandoned state hospital. There’s a great haunted house there until 1998, but the rest of the year, the rest of the place is just acres and acres of eyesore and stark ugliness. No businesses, no homes, just ancient, crumbling rotting buildings with rumored scary history, and a creepiness factor that’s off the scale. They really need to do something about this place.
I head onto route one and drive past old Foxboro Stadium. Been there a few times for concerts; it’s NEVER impressed me — High school yards have better facilities than this “Foxboro Stadium” place. And what????!!! There’s talk of the Patriots leaving? Sure hope that doesn’t happen. And the traffic around the place? HORRIBLE!
I look around again. My time machine says I’m still in the 1990s and Foxboro in the 1990s is beautiful, and quieter than I remember, and people are good to each other, and there’s that sense of community, and all the things I love then and now, but man, I’d forgotten about all these abandoned buildings, these places in desperate need of repair, and looking around, it seems like there isn’t too much to do here for fun, really. There is a LOT of work to be done here. Great town, but needs some TLC.
I set my time machine to return me to 2014. In a flash of light I’m back and wow — This is not the Foxboro I remember.
Our new Gillette Stadium is awesome. The infrastructure changes to Route One alleviated so much of the traffic, and the designers endeavored to incorporate the best aspects of every modern stadium into this venue. They succeeded. Gillette is classy. Love that place; we all do. Gillette is a showplace for our Super Bowl champs and the Revs, and man, does a concert sound good there!
So glad the Patriots stayed. Win or lose they make us proud. Yeah, it’s good business for the town, but there’s a “Team Patriots Pride” thing that’s uniquely Foxboro. Love that.
And now we have Patriot Place. Shops, restaurants, movies, live music, even ice skating in the winter! And in back, a nature walk and cranberry bog! The variety of places to shop and the goods they offer is so amazing. And every time I go to Patriot Place it seems like there’s something new here. It’s so exciting – and so many people come here to enjoy it. That has to be good for the town!
And this is great – a modern, urgent care center with state of the art medical on site! Awesome!
Downtown, unfortunately, the Common is still looking a little empty; some of that is due to businesses and services moving to better accommodations, but there is definitely work to be done here. Need to get some more businesses back here downtown.
But look! There seems like there’s always something happening on the common these days. Summer concerts, movies, memorials, fun days, festivals
It’s like the common is the epicenter of activities again! Also, it looks like common sidewalks and streets got a really good facelift as well. Too many parking/route 140 signs, but other than that it looks great!
And what’s this at Booth Field? A skate park and skating rink for the kids! Wow! And the high school got a new field too? Cool!
I see that Van Dora is gone, they moved the Steamer Shed (nice to preserve that history) and a state of the art CVS is there now.
I’m very pleased to note that the old State hospital is almost gone, replaced with beautiful modern homes and our fantastic Chestnut green with its services and restaurants. And look — a playground. And a Supermarket.
And also, a gleaming new Public Safety Building – it’s gorgeous and state of the art. Perfect home for our police and firefighters. And what a beautiful 9/11 memorial in front of it.
Wait – we have a YMCA now? Look at all the people! Look at all the kids having fun! Look at all the programs they offer! What a state of the art facility! Incredible.
And there’s the Foxboro Senior Center, opened in 1998. Dreams do come true. Love that place. So glad the seniors have a real home to call their own.
Across the street, no one complains about the Boch building anymore – because it looks so good, fully refurbished, occupied, flourishing.
We got a new post office. Might be closing, which is a shame, but it looks great and is so modern.
Hey, Boyden Library! Looking great! What a modern upgrade you got!
So many changes in 20 years
Back in the 1990s, places that had been abandoned, outlived their usefulness, or needed replacement, they were aplenty. There was far less to do. Far fewer sources of tax dollars and revenue, too.
Two decades later, the improvements I’ve mentioned are only a fraction of what has been improved in our town.
Foxboro has changed a lot in 20 years and I would argue that Foxboro has had MANY changes for the better. The good changes outweigh the bad. Because people care about this town. So the improvements are constant.
But these changes take TIME. Sometimes, YEARS. Because each change, each move, each improvement, and ALSO each decision NOT to change something, was accomplished by a lot of planning, discussions, committees, thoughtful consideration, input from the residents and officials, and yes, politics. And sometimes, some (or a lot) of negativity, fights, and rants.
Why? Big changes take time, and these changes / decisions not to change were all done by people who CARE about the town, no matter what their opinion on the subject being discussed.
Town government, town officials, planning committees and boards and citizens collaborate on the blueprint for the next generation, and the next. The process can be maddeningly slow, and sometimes, just maddening. But is the way of all towns. Foxboro is no different.
Town Hall is the latest item on a list of improvements, a list that will never end. But it’ll get done. Ultimately, we figure it out, get it done, and move on. C’est la vie. Bottom line? People argue, debate, discuss, battle, because they CARE. And more often than not, the end result is a good thing.
Ten years from now it won’t be town hall but something else. And something else after that. Because that’s progress. And from where I’m looking, the great town I moved into twenty odd years ago and fell in love with had a lot of need for improvement and those improvements got made. And thankfully, many things did NOT change. Because people cared.
Progress moves slowly. Town Hall is no different. It’ll get done. Whatever the result, some will love it, some will hate it, some will say eh, as we move onto the next thing that needs to get done. And the next.
This is not the Foxboro I remember.
That’s a good thing.
UPDATE: After this ran, my good friend (and Foxboro town historian) Jack Authelet emailed me to clarify two points. I sent a brief letter to the editor the following week noting the clarifications:
“To the editor, in the interest of historical accuracy, there were two errors in my column from last week about Foxboro “then and now.” First, The Van Dora was a fully operating nursing home when sold to the developers of CVS, and all of the residents had to be moved out prior to demolition — I’d noted in my op/ed it was empty. Secondly, the Steamer Shed was never moved, it was always where it always has been, built on that spot. My sincere thanks for the alert readers who keep me informed, and it’s a good lesson to check my facts a little better — even a twenty-five year resident of Foxboro still has a lot to learn about the history of this awesome town!”
— I’m very grateful to Jack (who is awesome) for keeping me honest, and it’s a good reminder that I still have a lot of Foxboro history still to learn 🙂