Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Rebirth of a New England Downtown

Article and Photos by Eric H.

When the very large Emerald Square Mall opened in 1989, downtown North Attleborough (also known as North Attleboro), MA, soon took a hit that nearly turned its town center into a ghost town.

With true New England work ethic and spirit, the North Attleboro and Plainville Chamber of Commerce, local elected and appointed officials, as well as those special people forming the Downtown Associates of North Attleboro proved that there's room for both an impressive, modern shopping mall and a quaint, old downtown. Now, even during a tough economy, downtown North Attleboro thrives with many unique shops, excellent restaurants and colorful banners and tasteful store signs competing with each other to liven up this tree-lined, supersized Mayberry RFD town center. While certainly not a tourist destination, the hard-working citizens of North Attleboro (population around 29,000) have created a viable, service-oriented downtown for its residents. There's a wonderful town common with a gazebo and seasonal events, the stunning 1894 Richards Memorial Library, downtown swimming pools free to residents, and plenty of shops and dining spots that bring in local shoppers. Some of our favorites include Shirley's Fine Chocolates for delicious sweets, Mackie's Restaurant and Country Store for breakfast, lunch and dinner and ice cream, and the Alternative Market for health food. There's also a hobby shop, comedy cafe, arts and crafts center, as well as an in town market opening soon. Portabello's has a fine reputation for chef-created Italian-American foods, and Soup Works has been heralded by the local press and residents for its wonderful homemade soups. Constantino's Italian Gourmet Deli not only brings wonderful pastas and red sauces, pizzas and calzones to downtown North Attleboro, but also a welcoming look with its old-time brick facade, window boxes with bright flowers, and outdoor cafe-style seating.

We've talked with North Attleboro residents and shop owners who are truly proud of their revitalized downtown -- a true testimony to true New England community pride and the resolve to find a solution to one's own town challenges.

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