In June more than 100 people gathered in the House of Blues on Lansdowne street in Boston and raised more than $21,000 for families dealing with childhood cancer.
and was hosted by both and Cops for Kids With Cancer, both nonprofit organizations with strong ties to the community.
Michael Loconto, board president of WRMS, said that part of the reason they chose to partner with Cops for Kids With Cancer, was the amount of officers who actually reside in West Roxbury.
“The Boston Police are heavily involved,” he said. “[This event] is a link to our community. When we hold these events, it gives us a chance to highlight businesses and the things that they provide. Not to mention, we also split the proceeds with Cops for Kids With Cancer.”
Loconto said the event is an annual signature event for WRMS, where they work hand-in-hand with a new charity each year. Last year, they went with a baseball theme and raised money for the Jimmy Fund.
Currently, there are no major plans in terms of who they will partner with next year, said Loconto, however, they will most likely hold it at the House of Blues, where it has been held for the last three years.
“Cops for Kids with Cancer was a great organization to work with and brought a lively presence to the event, and we’re very proud to have suported their cause,” said Loconto.
According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, there are currently 1,600 communities throughout the United States with organizations that use the Main Streets model. The first one to be used in Boston was put in place in Roslindale in 1983 by then city councilor, Thomas Menino. In 1995, as mayor, Menino was able to convince the National Trust for Historic Preservation to expand its Main Streets model to Boston, where they created the first multi-district Main Streets program in the nation.
According to Boston Main Streets’ web site, the number of districts grew from 10 in 1995 to 19 in 2001, which is where the number stands now. It was then that West Roxbury Main Streets formed and began working to revitalize the heart of West Roxbury.
“Neighborhood revitalization has always been a cornerstone of [mayor Menino’s] successive administrations,” said Loconto. “Boston was one of the first urban areas to adopt a main streets program... I didn’t live in Massachusetts at the time that it started, but people who have been here for that long tell me it’s night and day from what it used to be.”
Loconto said that WRMS is the largest district in the city both in terms of length and the number of businesses, which he estimates to be somewhere around 260. He added that out of those 260 enterprises, there are currently only five vacant storefronts in the district. On top of that, 15 businesses have opened in the last three years amidst the nation’s economic recession.
Most recently, held its grand opening on June 22 on Spring Street. And, on an unspecified date, will be moving into the space vacated by TCB on Centre Street, said Loconto.
Working as president for WRMS as well as in labor relations for Harvard University, Loconto still has time to raise his family in their West Roxbury home, where they have resided since 2003.
“I always wanted to be involved with my neighborhood,” he said. “My wife and I bought a house [here] with the intentions of it being a place where we could settle down and have some kids. It’s worked out as well as we could’ve imagined.”
In 2003, Loconto was working in labor relations with the city, where he met many West Roxbury residents. It was there that he started asking around, trying to find a way to give back to his community.
“One of the gentlemen who worked with me suggested that I join Main Streets. So I joined the Economic Restructuring Committee in 2005, which is sort of the meat and potatoes of what Main Streets does.”
As part of the ER committee, Loconto poured through demographic data and analyzed the impact of the decreasing age population and the rising income averages pouring into West Roxbury at the time.
After serving as chair of the committee, he took a break and transitioned into the role simply as a due-paying member. However, in 2008, he was approached by a neighbor of his who had climbed his way into the presidency seat at WRMS and asked to serve as secretary, which was a position he gladly took. In 2011, Loconto took over the presidency.
“It’s not a high profile role, in my estimation. But it’s a role that you can really make a lot out of,” he said. “I run the board meetings. I set the agenda. I also act as a liaison between other folks in the neighborhood, whether that be other business members or other organizations.”
Currently, Loconto is working with the members of WRMS to plan a fall event in West Roxbury as well as another Holiday Stroll in December, and creating a new lineup for their Business Roundtable Seminar Series for 2011-12.