Alan Peterfreund: Amherst: Let’s change the Cushman debate
To the editor:
The potential development of the Cushman area of Amherst has focused on what is wrong with the project. I propose we see the opportunity.
The opportunity is for an infusion of capital to help re-vitalize Amherst — not along its edges with the associated costs and loss of wooded habitat (near an area that I used to call home) — but rather as a means of revitalizing our downtown. If one objectively looks at the northern part of downtown (the east side of Pleasant Street from the post office to Triangle Street) one sees one- to two-story buildings that under utilize the property value and are of little architectural interest. Imagine a multi-use complex of housing (yes a significant amount of housing that meets the market opportunity Landmark wants to capitalize on), offices, restaurants, banks and stores.
If this housing was primarily students, they would need fewer cars. Commerce in town could flourish and we could even potentially see a broader mix of businesses. Amherst is great at identifying the problems with any change. But how do we manage those changes and start being creative about seeing opportunity as a chance to have private funding for a major re-vitalization of our downtown? For this idea to gain traction, a dialogue needs to start occurring among the array of downtown property holders, businesses, potential investors, UMass, the town planners and boards and homeowners proximal to downtown. A possible source of funds could be a recent Amherst UMass study grant and/or the money collected by the Business Improvement District (BID). As one who annually reluctantly pays my BID assessment, rather than seeing the money spent on flowers, block parties or movies, I would be excited to see it being used to plan for Amherst’s future.