TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — The city of Taunton opened a brand new outdoor seating area this week, and while it’s only temporary, not everyone is a fan of it.
The outdoor seating area is located near the Taunton Green and consists of several picnic tables, chairs and umbrellas, as well as jersey barriers to protect those utilizing the space from oncoming traffic.
“I’m thrilled we are able to offer a new outdoor seating area for people to dine, read, or meet for coffee and relax,” Taunton Mayor Shaunna O’Connell said. “Many cities across the Commonwealth have installed these public plazas in response to the pandemic. They have been a huge success and we are excited to bring this innovative thinking to Taunton.”
The outdoor space was made possible by a $40,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Shared Streets and Spaces program.
“We have so many great things going on downtown,” Downtown Taunton Foundation and Business Improvement District Director Colleen Simmons said. “Having this additional space available for people to meet for coffee or eat their lunch or take a break while shopping makes downtown even more appealing.”
But not everyone is on board with the new space.
Michael Cashman, owner of Devitos Pizzeria, believes it’s actually driving customers away from his shop.
“It’s a great concept, but the wrong area,” he said. “Nobody with common sense is going to sit out here and enjoy food listening to [oncoming traffic], sirens and breathing in fumes.”
Cashman is also questioning the safety of the outdoor seating area’s location, but the city claims the design was carefully constructed by engineers with that in mind.
The city also said the design of the new public space includes traffic calming measures.
And while Cashman is concerned that the outdoor seating area will overcrowd an already congested area, the city said only one parking spot was sacrificed.
Cashman believes that’s one parking spot too many.
“A parking space is now gone,” he said. “Parking spaces have a revenue value to all businesses, not just me.”
The outdoor seating area is only temporary and will remain open throughout the summer. If successful, the city will look into making it permanent.
Cashman tells 12 News he plans to go to next week’s Taunton City Council meeting to express his concerns.