In presenting a Nantasket-Kenberma Business Area report associated with a $30,000 state Local Rapid Recovery Program grant, awarded to Hull to help local businesses recover from economic losses stemming from the pandemic, Civic Moxie Consultant Sue Silberberg referred to the town as “a treasure map” to be explored.
During remarks delivered this week at a remote Economic Development Committee meeting, Silberberg and consultant Sue Kim explained ways to market the community to better attract visitors. They also provided goals and a list of proposed projects and actions to address the unique coronavirus-related impacts to the Kenberma and Nantasket business districts, whether from a decline in revenue, temporary or permanent business closure, or other factors.
Silberberg and Kim walked those two areas in March and April and assessed existing conditions as part of the study that led to their initial 52-page report to the EDC, examining sidewalks, street trees and benches, lighting, signage, and crosswalks.
They were also interested in the number of shops and restaurants affected. “Of the 95 businesses in the study area, there were 15 vacant storefronts,” Kim reported. However, because of the time of year when the study was conducted, it was recognized that some of those vacancies were likely the result of businesses that had not yet opened for the season.
The top priority for the Rapid Recovery Program is to assist Hull businesses, in the short term, in safely reopening to maximize the important summer season and, in the mid- to long term, to “restart pre-COVID momentum for positive change through business development, housing diversity, and visual and quality-of-life improvements.”
The study suggested that Kenberma and Nantasket be considered as two distinct districts with different marketing strategies, with a focus on space activation and art to draw beachgoers to shops and restaurants and to encourage more pedestrian activity.
The consultants identified the need to continue to find ways to better communicate and work with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation; consolidate event and business planning and marketing efforts; address parking issues and other ways to access Hull without driving here, as well as general upkeep and maintenance of the beach area; and “brand” Hull and trumpet all that this community has to offer through digital marketing, attractive signage, and a compelling narrative about the town – including its rich history, scenic beach, natural environment, and other assets – to attract more visitors.
Silberberg noted that Hull does not have professional staff to support tourism, event programming coordination, and marketing; she also said that strategies are needed for “off-season marketing and vibrancy.”
Potential improvement efforts would relate to adding highly visible signage incorporating new branding; creating a digital and physical map of destinations, businesses, and parking for Kenberma and Nantasket; and continuing with the implementation of the earlier two-way road study recommendations.
Another suggestion would be to work with the owner of the former aquarium to improve the exterior with artwork, murals, and signage “to create a visual gateway to Nantasket Beach.”
Increasing the number of Economic Development Committee members and the town’s capacity to coordinate and work with local businesses and the Hull Nantasket Chamber of Commerce was another recommendation.
Ernest Minelli pointed out the importance of “balancing the needs of residents with the reality that Hull is a destination town.” He also noted that many people have childhood memories of going to Nantasket Beach, Paragon Park, and other Hull locations.
EDC member Donna Pursel said that, while preserving past memories is important, “we’re not in the Paragon Park era anymore. So how can we make the town more sustainable today? This presentation gives us a great starting point to expand the town.”
EDC Chair Jennifer Constable observed that there is “a lot of crossover between this planning process and other planning initiatives with which the town is involved,” which she considers a plus.
Another presentation will be made this month and will include more specific project recommendations, cost estimates, and potential funding sources.
“We are hoping the state will look at the results of [this planning process that involves Hull and many other communities] and provide a round of funding” to implement some of the recommendations, Silberberg said.
The final plan is expected to be completed in August.