Amherst Media to take another shot at building new studio

  • Amherst Media Logo

  • In this 2013 photo, Jim Lescault, executive director of Amherst Media, stands outside the studio’s old headquarters. The organization, now located at 246 College St., intends to build a new studio on property it owns at the corner of Main and Gray streets. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/17/2016 3:30:40 PM

AMHERST — With a matching grant pledged by the Rotary Club of Amherst, Amherst Media is renewing its efforts to build a new studio on property it owns at the corner of Main and Gray streets.

Amherst Media Executive Director James Lescault said Wednesday that the nonprofit, which operates from an Eversource-owned building at 246 College St., intends to go ahead with a project on the two parcels, totaling .56 acres, it purchased in December 2013. The land was successfully rezoned from general residence to neighborhood business by Town Meeting in May 2013.

“We have a piece of land we want to build on and we want to move forward on,” Lescault said.

The need for Amherst Media to find a new home has continued after Eversource, previously known as Western Massachusetts Electric Co., issued an eviction notice in August 2010. Since then, Amherst Media has negotiated to remain in the building it has used since 1991.

Doing a building project means abandoning ongoing efforts to sell the properties, recently pulling them off the market after listing them for $490,000 in February.

The decision comes as the annual Rotary live broadcast auction, held Veterans Day weekend, grossed $30,670. It was the ninth year the Rotary has held the auction in the Amherst Media studios.

Ed Severance, chairman of Rotary’s auction committee, said Thursday he anticipates that after expenses, the amount that Amherst Media will receive will be between $26,000 and $27,000.

“We will give the net as a matching grant,” Severance said.

Lescault said Amherst Media will be reaching out to banks, organizations and individuals to ensure the match is met.

“We are focused now on building on the incredible support from the Rotary and looking for end-of-year matching funds as well as new local business supporters,” Lescault said.

There is no projection yet on the full cost of a building project, but Lescault said the original plans, which included a 9,000-square-foot building that would have cost around $2.5 million, have been scaled back.

Steven Brewer, president of the board of directors for Amherst Media, said in a statement that Rotary’s support will allow Amherst Media to continue to play a role as the country and community undergo changes.

“We are focused on creating a new home for Amherst Media that will help us serve more local students, media makers, local businesses and provide even more government transparency,” Brewer said.

The proposed location for the building is in front of the 19th-century Henry F. Hills House, and part of the Emily Dickinson Local Historic District. This means any project will have to be reviewed by a local historic district committee for compatibility with the historic properties and issued a certificate of appropriateness

The land is currently an open lawn that had once been considered for purchase by the town as the Hills Historical Landscape Park, situated across from various commercial establishments, including Lumber Yard Restaurant and Elements Hot Tub Spa.

Meanwhile, Rotary is continuing to raise money through an online auction that will run for the next three weeks at

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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