Executive director of Amherst Business Improvement District to step down

  • FILE PHOTO/ANDREW WHITAKER   FILE PHOTO/ANDREW WHITAKER  

Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2019 11:43:50 AM

AMHERST — After leading the Amherst Business Improvement District since 2013, shepherding the organization through two renewals and assisting with the staging of numerous events in downtown, Sarah la Cour will be stepping down as its executive director.

La Cour announced Thursday that she will be departing from the position May 31. The BID, which was formed by the Select Board in November 2011, was successfully renewed in October for another five years.

“I have enjoyed my time at the BID immensely and look forward to seeing the organization progress based on the strong foundation we have created,” la Cour said. “After the renewal vote, it feels like a good time for me to pursue other personal and professional goals.”

La Cour, 55, said she has no immediate plans for what she will do in the future. “It’s a good chance to take a look at my next chapter,” la Cour said.

“Sarah has been an asset to the organization, and we are sorry to see her go,” said Barry Roberts, president of the BID’s board of directors, adding that he wishes her well in future endeavors.

The BID is designed to supplement existing town services and add to the vibrancy of the commercial areas. Along with an assessment on property owners within downtown, financial and in-kind assistance also comes from the town, the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College.

BID members are required to make biannual contributions in the form of assessments to their properties to support a yearly budget in excess of $250,000.

Roberts said he appreciates that la Cour immediately “tidied up” the financials when she took over and set the BID on course to success.

“She’s leaving us in a great place,” Roberts said.

La Cour cited several accomplishments during her tenure, including the annual ArtWeek, which is coming up later this month, the creation of the cultural district, of which she is president and which the BID manages, and the creation of planting beds near the Amherst Cinema.

She has also overseen the “Concerts in the Parks” series, planned for the new welcome and directional signs and landscape improvements in the roundabout, and coordinated the opening of the Visitor Information Center with the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. In addition, la Cour has served on the Downtown Parking Working Group and has been instrumental in addressing both parking matters and zoning issues downtown, such as promoting the construction of new housing and mixed-use buildings.

One of the projects for her successor will be pursuing the outdoor performance venue, or band shell, on the Town Common. The BID is moving the summer concert series previously staged at Kendrick Park to Town Common, where a temporary tent and stage will be set up so the public can get a feel for what the band shell will be like.

La Cour said her departure offers a chance to see if the BID wants to go in new directions. “I believe in the organization and hope for the best for it,” la Cour said.

Roberts said the Western Mass Economic Development Council, which provided consulting to the business community and municipal officials prior to the formation of the BID, will help with the search, and he expects to form a search committee that will bring recommendations for the person to hire. 

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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