Editorial: A shopping opportunity for a better Water Street plan

Stop & Shop’s plans to redesign, reorganize, consolidate, and enlarge its Water Street, Tisbury store presents itself as an opportunity for the town. Leave aside for the moment the obvious value to Vineyard Haven residents and others of a larger, brighter, more orderly, competitive grocery store that will serve this end of the Island as well as its Edgartown counterpart serves Edgartonians and others, here is a moment for Tisbury officials and residents, as well as regional planners, to address some of the many issues that hobble the Water Street/Five Corners area.

A lot of the problems there that have for so many years appeared insoluble were identified by Tisbury and regional officials this week, including the Stop & Shop plan’s effect on the already congested Five Corners neighborhood and parking and traffic flow in and out of the town parking lot and on the street, which is the main entry point for SSA traffic.

Stop & Shop wants to take advantage of its related real estate holdings to increase the size of the undistinguished building the grocery store now occupies and add enclosed parking for 43 cars. A 24,000-square-foot market would incorporate the land the current store occupies, the space at the rear previously leased to Midnight Farm, the former Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant, and a residential building at 15 Cromwell Lane, behind the Golden Dragon building.

As Times writer Janet Hefler reports this morning, selectman Jeff Kristal has the right idea. He said he’d like Stop & Shop to look at Water Street as a whole, together with the Steamship Authority.

“Stop & Shop is committed to working with the Steamship Authority,” lawyer and former selectman Geoghan Coogan said Monday. “We understand it’s not just a building; it’s got to be a teamwork approach to the whole street.”

And, Ned Orleans, Tisbury’s appointee to the MVC, agreed. “I’ve urged my colleagues on the commission, and I urge our town leadership, to look at this project not just as a Stop & Shop project but as a downtown project.”

As these leaders do, this page sees the Stop & Shop plan as an occasion to think through the challenges that the Water Street/Five Corners/State Road hodgepodge presents and solve, or begin to solve, some of them. It’s not a moment to waste. Rather, it’s a moment to focus attention on increasing parking — think the space created when the old fire barn is razed — and connecting that parking to the Main Street business area; on improving traffic movement through Five Corners and making it safer; on repurposing (if it’s salvageable) the woebegone police headquarters at the northwest corner of the town parking lot; on incorporating Union Street in a solution to traffic congestion that is to a significant degree associated with Steamship Authority activity. And, using a new, thoughtfully designed Stop & Shop building as the catalyst for this planning effort will certainly help to refurbish not only the experience but the appearance of the opening three hundred yards of a visitor’s first impression of Martha’s Vineyard.