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Downtown Northampton group growing

  • DAN LITTLEDowntown Northampton on Main Street Friday afternoon. DAN LITTLE

  • DAN LITTLEDowntown Northampton on Main Street Friday afternoon. DAN LITTLE



@mcfeeters
Saturday, March 19, 2016

NORTHAMPTON — The Downtown Northampton Association, announced last fall to fill the role of the disbanded Business Improvement District in maintaining a healthy city center, is looking to build its membership base and hire an executive director. 

With a new website that launched last week, the association hopes to raise $200,000 to pay a full-time director and fund beautification efforts and events downtown, such as the holiday lights programs and restaurant week. 

So far, Thornes Marketplace and Smith College have jumped on board as major contributors, each donating $10,000. And starting next year, Smith has committed a $20,000 annual contribution, according to college spokesman Sam Masinter. 

The city also has dedicated a maintenance worker to downtown. 

The DNA, developed in collaboration with the city and Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce, is accepting applications for an executive director who would work with the board to develop a budget and manage events. The director, who will be paid an annual salary of $40,000, will work out of the chamber’s office on Pleasant Street.

Association co-chair Marlene Marrocco said the group is seeking contributions at all levels, whether that be $25 from an individual or $5,000 from a business, emphasizing that a strong downtown will benefit both businesses and residents alike. 

The organization is inviting property owners to contribute $1,000 a year per property. 

Those within the downtown business district who have chosen to join the Chamber of Commerce are automatically part of the DNA. First-floor businesses will be charged $200 per year, while upper-floor businesses will pay $100. Dues for new members will begin at $490 a year and increase based on size and location. 

Unlike the BID, which was declared null and void by a judge in 2014 for violating state law, participation in the DNA is voluntary. 

Supporting downtown could increase property values, draw more tourists and lure potential employees, Marrocco said. This could be particularly important at a time when some worry about the city’s current business climate.

“I think if the DNA does its job, then the atmosphere will change a little bit and the storefronts won’t be vacant,” Marrocco said, explaining the the association will do its best to market the city. 

Hanging baskets already are on the way, she said. 

Alan Wolf, spokesman for the association, said there is no limit to who can participate in the DNA.

“We’re trying to make the case that all of Northampton has a stake in a healthy downtown,” he said. 

Stephanie McFeeters can be reached at smcfeeters@gazettenet.com.