Amherst BID to go back to the drawing board on bandshell

  • Hundreds attend the Taste of Amherst Friday on the Town Common. The Amherst Business Improvement District will ask for design ideas this spring for a new bandshell on the common where live performances can take place. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

AMHERST — Three months after presenting plans for construction of a bandstand on the Town Common, the Amherst Business Improvement District is changing course and will hold a contest this spring to judge designs for a bandshell instead.

“Part of it is we needed to have a more robust public process,” Amherst BID Executive Director Sarah la Cour said.

In November, la Cour was joined by John Kuhn of Kuhn Riddle Architects to present to the Select Board a conceptual design of a contemporary bandstand at the eastern edge of the Town Common near Boltwood Avenue and the Lord Jeffery Inn. The idea was to have a venue that was inspired by drawings and references from famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead in 1874.

By taking a step back, la Cour said the BID can put out a call for proposals.

“We’re hoping to be doing that in late spring,” la Cour said. “We would describe the location and basic parameters, including the general size and scale and cost.”

The appeal of the Kuhn Riddle design, she said, is its expandable nature, with staging that could be added to its sides and front.

But la Cour said she would like to see what other designs might be possible. While no one is proposing a traditional gazebo for the common, la Cour said she wouldn’t dissuade someone from using that as the basis for a bandshell.

“We don’t have preconceived notions about what someone could submit,” la Cour said.

A bandshell is a type of bandstand shaped like a large concave shell with special acoustic properties. It is typically used for live performances.

La Cour said judging will be done by the Amherst BID, Town Hall staff, the Planning Board and the Historical Commission. There would also be a people’s choice award.

She added that she envisions the competition will be similar to the Just Big Enough: Green Housing for All competition held in Northampton earlier this year to solicit concepts for small homes that would be built on city land on Burts Pit Road.

The design cues for the eventual bandshell may be taken from the planned renovation of the North Common, she said. That work could begin this year, though may be put off to 2019.

La Cour said the BID will also need to have money in hand to construct the bandshell. The Kuhn Riddle design was estimated at around $200,000 to build.

“The BID would have to do additional fundraising to get it built,” la Cour said.

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