Former Attleboro mayor Judith Robbins was known for her vision of Attleboro’s downtown: Relentless planning for commercial and residential development that embraced the natural green space the city has on offer.
So, as those plans take shape nearly two years after Robbins’ death, city officials felt it necessary to honor the late mayor for her hard work in making Attleboro what it is today.
Without a vision, they said, there can be no results.
About 100 city officials, state representatives, volunteers and residents gathered Monday for a ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Riverfront Drive and Judith H. Robbins Riverfront Park. The park and roadway runs from Wall Street to Olive Street along the Ten Mile River and is part of a downtown “urban village” project that mixes transportation, housing and business.
Officials involved in the project applauded Robbins Monday for her years of service to the city, calling the park and 1,930-foot roadway a testament to her hard work and collaboration.
Robbins was killed in a tragic car accident in 2015 after 12 years as mayor and several years as chairwoman of the city’s redevelopment authority. At 78, she was still serving the city leading the downtown renovation when she died.
“This is a great tribute to Judy Robbins, someone who gave most of her life to this city,” Rick Correia, chairman of the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority said. “With this beautiful runway and park, we will certainly be reminded of how hard she worked with others.”
Correia recalled Robbins’ vision of a “green belt” across the city from as far back as the early ‘90s.
“She was one of the brightest persons I have worked with,” he said.
One of her most successful legacies was installing the Balfour Riverwalk just a few miles away from the new park on North Main Street. Mayor Kevin Dumas said plans are underway to connect the two “gems” of the city and bring Robbins’ vision of urban green space to life.
“It’s certainly a fitting tribute to her,” he said.
“It’s almost unimaginable,” state Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, added, “when you think back to what it was, for it to look like it is today. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”
The land was once home to the former department of public works highway station and the old police station, and much of the Ten Mile River was hidden from public view. The project was nearly 10 years in the making, Dumas added.
The $4.7 million project was funded through a MassWorks Public Infrastructure Project grant awarded to the city in 2013 as part of an initiative to improve access to and expand the downtown.
With the new roadway connecting to Wall and Olive streets, traffic leaving the MBTA station and parking lot will be less congested, city officials said. The park was also part of plans to draw more residents downtown. That area already includes new housing and retail space, with a second condo building to go up next spring.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito called the opening a “milestone moment” for Attleboro and commended Robbins’ work and relentless spirit in finding resources to bring the project to life, especially as a volunteer.
“It takes people like that to step forward,” Polito said. “This acknowledges what public service is and shows public service matters and makes a difference.”
Also attending were Robbins’ husband Marcus Robbins, her son Andrew Robbins and her sister Susan Sharples. Rep. Paul Heroux, D-Attleboro and several city council members were also in attendance.