New outdoor dining area in Orange gets state grant

  • A group of residents has set up an outdoor dining area in downtown Orange for people buying food from local eateries. A $9,700 grant from the state’s Shared Streets & Spaces Program will enable a makeover of the spot. Contributed photo/KAREN LANOU

  • A group of residents has set up an outdoor dining area in downtown Orange for people buying food from local eateries. A $9,700 grant from the state’s Shared Streets & Spaces Program will enable a makeover of the spot. Contributed photo/KAREN LANOU

  • A group of residents has set up an outdoor dining area in downtown Orange for people buying food from local eateries. A $9,700 grant from the state’s Shared Streets & Spaces Program will enable a makeover of the spot. Contributed photo/KAREN LANOU

  • A group of residents has set up an outdoor dining area in downtown Orange for people buying food from local eateries. A $9,700 grant from the state’s Shared Streets & Spaces Program will enable a makeover of the spot. Contributed photo/KAREN LANOU

Staff Writer
Published: 7/31/2020 4:02:08 PM
Modified: 7/31/2020 4:02:55 PM

ORANGE — The new downtown outdoor dining area is slated for a makeover now that Orange received $9,700 from the state’s Shared Streets & Spaces Program.

The town was listed this week as one of six municipalities to share more than $273,200 in the third round of program funding. Launched June 10, the Shared Streets & Spaces Program provides technical and financial assistance for Massachusetts cities and towns to “conceive, design and implement tactical changes to curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility and renewed commerce,” according to the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT), which announced the recent awards.

The dining area, in a portion of the parking lot at the main-streets intersection, has three tables — all on loan — that will be replaced by five (two of which comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act) as well as five planters and flowers, three sets of umbrellas and stands, and garbage and recycling bins. The items are expected to eventually be permanently used on a raised deck in an adjacent, municipally owned vacant parcel that will be open seasonally to the public. The portion of the parking lot not taken as part of the dining area is still open to vehicles.

Town Administrator Gabriele Voelker said the tables will be round and have green umbrellas.

The dining area came to fruition a couple of weeks ago, two weeks after Orange residents Polly Bixby and Karen Grzesik had the idea after purchasing coffee and scones from Corner Cafe (inside Trail Head Outfitters & General Store at 1 South Main St.) and having to enjoy the items while standing on the sidewalk because indoor dining is still limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Janice Lanou joined Bixby and Grzesik in spearheading the project.

Indoor dining at Massachusetts restaurants resumed in late June, three months after Gov. Charlie Baker ordered dining rooms closed in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Parties of more than six people per table are not allowed and tables must be at least 6 feet apart. Also, patrons must wear a mask when away from their table, menus must be disposable and seating at bars is prohibited.

Bixby said the goal is to help local eateries.

“We need to save our restaurants,” she said previously.

Other eateries near the intersection are the Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op, The Pizza Factory, which reportedly is reopening soon, and a Subway sandwich shop.

Voelker said the grassroots effort propelling the project “is really working. People have been really excited about it.”

She said she has also used the space for open-air, socially distanced meetings with various town departments and committees.

“So we’re finding it very useful in that way, too,” she said.

Bixby and Voelker previously said all users dine at their own risk and will be responsible for sanitizing anything they touch and maintaining a proper social distance from strangers. Voelker has taken it upon herself to help by visiting every morning and spraying the tables with cleaning solution.

“But we’re not policing it,” she added.

A quick-build program modeled after the Complete Streets Funding Program launched in February of 2016, Shared Streets & Spaces provides grants as small as $5,000 and as large as $300,000. With Monday’s announcement, the program has doled out more than $1.7 million to 22 municipalities, according to MassDOT. The other municipalities listed as beneficiaries Monday were Billerica, Easthampton, Salem, Lee and Medford.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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