As is so often the case in the face of change, the reductionists regard the prospect as either terrific or appalling. It’s just what we need or nothing that we need. It will solve all the related problems or it will exacerbate every associated problem. It’s a few feet down the slippery slope or it’s a step forward and upward where forward and upward movement is badly needed. We need to look at the big picture, and until we do, until we’ve an answer at hand for every awkwardness, discomfort, or decrepitude, we should do nothing. Have you guessed? Of course, you have. We’re talking about the Stop & Shop, laid out in the surgical suite this morning.
The first thing to say is that the Stop & Shop proposal to expand its Water Street, Vineyard Haven market, to occupy several adjacent properties the company owns, and to add parking beneath the shopping floor does not please the reductionists. Indeed, it may not be the answer to all of anyone’s prayers
It does not solve the traffic or parking calamity that is a daily characteristic of that vehicular nexus, Five Corners at one end of the frontage, the Steamship Authority terminal at the other end and in fact along the entire eastern edge of the street. Congestion is horrible in the summer, occasionally irritating the rest of the year. It will continue to be, marginally worse because of the more attractive, more serviceable market, marginally better because of the more attractive, more serviceable market, and the additional parking.
It does not look like the Chilmark Store or the old Edgartown Drug Store, or the Morning Glory Farm Stand. It isn’t as structurally efficient as Cronig’s State Road Market, a medium size box store, because the grade and the confines for the new Stop & Shop don’t permit a box store in the center of a big parking lot. It’s architecture is not in keeping with the neighboring dilapidation.
On the other hand the proposed building is rather thoughtfully, even handsomely, designed, to make what is actually a large building seem smaller and more visually appealing. The plan adds parking spaces, which are in short supply everywhere in Vineyard Haven. It will serve shoppers much better — more choice, better quality, greater variety, less jammed, cleaner, brighter, navigable — than the current building does. It will extinguish the trashy, disused restaurant building next to the current market building. It will improve traffic flow within the town parking lot by improving loading/unloading access to the market itself (acknowledging that it’s no big box store, with the easy circulation that Cronig’s or an off-Island Shaw’s enjoys). Stop & Shop has worked with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for weeks and compromised where its business objectives would allow to resolve issues raised by the regulators, and the company’s leadership have offered to do more, help more, when town officials decide traffic and parking lot issues they are confronting now. Finally, this handsome plan may inspire Vineyard property owners in the vicinity to do more with their properties, do better, dress things up, make a commitment the way the off-Island ownership of the market has proposed to do.
This is a good plan, even a generous plan, by a conscientious owner. It makes things better, where better is badly needed.