Skip to main content

Norwood - Local Town Pages

Downtown Norwood ... A Destination despite the Pandemic

By Donna Lane

It’s safe to say that people understand that the pandemic has created havoc across the globe. In our state, it has stressed healthcare and education professionals, and hurt small businesses in many ways. It’s also hampered our ability to socialize and, for many, created financial hardship. Our lives have been altered in many ways – some negatively, others indescribably. In many ways, the pandemic has challenged us to do things differently to adapt to the situations we’re facing.


Norwood residents have faced many of the same problems as our sister communities. But, the Town of Norwood – from our selectmen, to town manager, department heads, and their support staff – has been working to keep the lines of communication open and to help local businesses during the tough economic times.
Charlotte Walsh, owner of Charles River Running, has been a significant contributor to the Norwood business community for the past nine years. Walsh has been active in supporting all Norwood businesses and is the current president of the Friends of Norwood Center, a non-profit group that connects local businesses, town leadership, and residents. The Friends’ stated purpose is “to help support a vibrant community and a thriving local economy.”
Walsh credits the Town for making Norwood a “destination” last year when other towns were still struggling to deal with the fallout of business closings.
“Because the Town was so proactive last spring when things were starting to open up in limited capacity, Norwood was way ahead of every other town around,” Walth opined. “As a result ... the day that the state allowed for outdoor dining, our restaurants were ready.”
“That’s because the town went door-to-door with our restaurants, helped them sketch out their plans, walked them over to the selectmen to get approvals, and put up the barriers ahead of time. We were the first town to really have our stuff together once the weather opened up and people were allowed to dine outside. And because we had so many restaurants, Norwood became a destination!”


While Paul Halkiotis, the Town of Norwood’s AICP, Planning and Economic Development Director, isn’t sure about us being the first town that was ready for business, he acknowledged that the Health, Planning and Building departments, the Town Engineer, and other department heads worked together to come up with an application process that was streamlined to help local businesses, especially the restaurants, to make their businesses accessible to customers under Covid guidelines.
“So, by the time the governor made the announcement that outdoor dining was approved, the Town had already issued approvals for outdoor dining,” Halkiotis said.
Mark Ryan and the DPW really made it happen by setting up the jersey barriers and basically relocating the sidewalks onto the street parking spaces so people could still walk on the street, essentially where the cars are normally parked. They also closed off Central St. across from the Town Common and installed wifi and music. It proved to be very successful last year. In fact, last fall Town Manager Tony Mazzucco commented that downtown Norwood was more vibrant last year than it had been in many years ... and that happened during the pandemic. So, this past March the Town decided to do it once again this year.”
The Town applied for and received a Technical Assistance Grant from the State’s Department of Housing and Economic Development – their Local Rapid Recovery Grant Program. Halkiotis said that the intent is to help the Town figure out how it can build on the success we had last year (and hope to have this year) with outside dining. The question is, is it feasible to make changes that would be permanent? For example, perhaps by closing one side of Washington Street or widening sidewalks to accommodate outdoor dining ... especially if it involves eliminating some of the important parking spaces that businesses rely on.
The Town is currently working with consultants from the Commonwealth in partnership with Tom O’Rourke, president of the Neponset River Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Charlotte Walsh representing the Friends of Norwood Center business owners, to provide the consultants with local information and contacts.
As part of the Local Rapid Recovery Grant Program, all communities that applied for the grant were asked to have their businesses complete a survey. Halkiotis said the results were very interesting. He believes that the Commonwealth will offer a follow-up grant to help implement solutions to some of the problems the survey identifies in each community.
O’Rourke recently announced that the Chamber received a $95,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Massachusetts Office of Business Development to do a couple of programs for local businesses that have been impacted by Covid in the past year and a half. For their first effort, they will host a regional restaurant week for the towns of Norwood, Dedham, Canton and Westwood, June 7 to June 11. The Chamber will promote all the restaurants that will be participating through their website and social media and hopes the public will support them as well.
Walsh has been actively disseminating information to local businesses about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund established by the American Rescue Plan to help restaurants and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. This program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business.
Overall, how is downtown doing from a business perspective? According to the handful of business owners who completed the state poll, business is off by about 25 percent. But the demand is there and many are beginning to hire again.
“Based on observations over my nine years of being here at the store, nearly every day, foot traffic has definitely picked up downtown,” Walsh said. “I’m sure it’s a combination of things being shut down for so long as well as the better weather, but it didn’t just start today. It started last summer when the Town blocked off Central St. and encouraged and helped restaurants with outdoor dining and installed free wifi and music at the Common. Not only did they make the center welcoming to visitors and residents, they also helped the businesses transition to another way of doing business.”
Between our state and our town, Norwood appears to be in a good place and headed for even better days despite the pandemic. Our thanks to all who have helped to make this happen!