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Deerfield to discuss downtown center’s future

— This week, Deerfield residents and business owners will have a chance to tell town officials and nationally known transportation planners what they want out of their downtown center in the South Deerfield.

Possible visions for the town could include tree-lined sidewalks, clear crosswalks and a local coffee shop. Whatever the town may become, the ultimate goal is to attract travelers from Routes 5 and 10 to Sugarloaf Street and to make the downtown the gateway to Deerfield.

A team of transportation planners and consultants have been in town since Thursday to discuss improvements to the village center as part of the town’s Complete Streets and Downtown Livability Plan. Deerfield residents, local employees, merchants and business owners have been able to participate in a series of interactive public workshops.

“Our goal is to look at what factors of the built-in social and economic environment of Deerfield really can be changed to help improve the livability of the South Deerfield center,” said Jason Schrieber, the principal of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.

Nygaard is the main transportation planner behind the project, along with Doucet & Associates.

Nelson/Nygaard has offices across the United States; Doucet & Associates offers civil engineering design and consulting, land planning and surveying consultation. Doucet, which has an office in Northampton, is working there on a redevelopment of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus.

Schrieber said the plan is for the community to tell the project planners what they do like and don’t like in the town and how the center can be improved.

In October, the town held a meeting with the volunteer steering committee made up of 24 resi­dents. The committee identified several goals for the downtown, including the promotion of economic development, improved aesthetics, enhanced safety for pedestrians and bicyclists and calming traffic measures.

The hope is to identify low-cost projects that the town can implement within 12 months. These changes could be as simple as sidewalk widening, more trees, or even colored paint on crosswalks.

Public workshops have been held over the last few days to provide the community with an opportunity to frame the problems and discuss how to improve South Deerfield. A final workshop take place today at noon, when participants will focus on final plans. The project partners intend to have a final report by the end of the year.

The project team will also be available to the public at the Frontier Community Access Television studio at 8B Elm St. today until noon.

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