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Residents express variety of opinions about Pleasant Street in Northampton



Wednesday, April 30, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Resident expressed a variety of feelings about Pleasant Street — one of the main entrances to the city — during a forum Tuesday night. While some described the street as “not pleasant,” others said it offers an intimacy rarely found elsewhere in Northampton.

About 80 people attended the “Pleasant Futures” forum at 118 Conz St., which lasted just under two hours. The session was sponsored by the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, the Ward Three Neighborhood Association, the Office of Planning and Sustainability and Ward 3 City Councilor Ryan R. O’Donnell.

Two group discussions were held in different rooms, led by Wayne Feiden, director of the city’s Office of Planning and Development, and Carolyn Misch, the city’s senior land use planner.

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Residents were asked to share their ideas on the future of Pleasant Street. Some suggested adding signs on Pleasant Street to better mark the entrance to downtown for motorists. Several people said that the street feels less safe for pedestrians than Main Street.

Resident Darrin Beek said that once he has passed Sylvester’s, 111 Pleasant St., when walking south, he feels it is much less safe to cross the street with his two daughters.

He suggested planting a tree belt to give motorists a sense of arrival in the city. “Trees make a tremendous quick-hit impact,” he said. “It looks like somebody cares.”

Residents in the discussion led by Misch said they believe the crosswalk in front of Northampton Coffee, 269 Pleasant St., is the most dangerous on the street.

“People in town are like, ‘This is not downtown Northampton. This is Pleasant Street, Northampton,’” said Steven Stover, a resident for seven years.

Some people said they enjoy the different feel that Pleasant Street offers.

“There are fewer tourists and more residents,” said Jeanne Kocsis of Randolph Place, a city resident for four years. She said she often sees the same people walking on Pleasant Street. “That gives it an intimacy that is rare in Northampton.”

Kocsis also suggested that a new parking garage replace the Union Station parking lot.

When asked what Pleasant Street should be in 10 years, others suggested the addition of a bicycle lane, more art, and a grocery store. There was also a suggestion that buildings on the street become commercial on the ground floor with residences on the upper levels.

Feiden said the next step will be to make the ideas that were presented available online at www.pleasantfuturesnorthampton.org for further discussion. He credited a similar forum in 2003 for several changes that have occurred since, including the addition of Northampton Coffee.

Robert Reckman, president of the Ward Three Neighborhood Association, said the goal is that residents’ ideas will become part of a “strategic plan” to be developed over the next three to four months.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the turnout and with the participation,” Reckman said.