Amherst receives $75,000 grant to fund more inclusive streetscape

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2022 2:22:41 PM
Modified: 11/7/2022 2:22:13 PM

AMHERST — A municipal plan that would guide development in downtown Amherst, including the look of mixed-use and commercial buildings and the future of streets and sidewalks, is being supported by a state grant.

Amherst officials announced this week that the town has received $75,000 from the Department of Housing and Community Development that will go toward creating so-called streetscape standards, supplementing work, which is just beginning, to have more in-depth design standards and dimensional regulations for projects.

The planning comes as significant development and redevelopment by private investors is made in town center, with the mixed-use 11 East Pleasant building rising next to One East Pleasant and 26 Spring going up across from the Inn on Boltwood.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said the streetscape standards will play a role in the “Destination: Amherst” roadmap that has already led to the playground opening at Kendrick Park and the planned overhaul of the North Common next year, with other strategies to make the town more economically viable.

“This most recent grant will develop streetscape standards for future infrastructure improvements we intend to make,” Bockelman said.

The state money will allow for a consultant to review existing conditions, execute a community engagement plan that seeks public input and develop the streetscape standards and implementation strategies.

Amherst Planner Maureen Pollock said the idea is to have a more walkable downtown and attract more visitors while enhancing Amherst’s growing tourism industry.

“This is an important opportunity for the town to envision and design the downtown streetscape that is inclusive of all ages and abilities,” Pollock said.

Planner Nathaniel Malloy told the Planning Board Wednesday that the state money might be able to augment the work the town is already doing, with a more detailed look at roads, bike lanes and sidewalks and discussion of building forms.

Planners were also updated on whether a second municipal parking garage will be needed, or expansion of the Boltwood parking garage can happen.

Desman Design Management of Boston, the design consultant for the original garage, is undertaking a technical assessment of the existing garage, including a visual inspection and a review of drawings to do load calculations to see if more floors can be added to it. The existing garage has a surface lot and a below ground level.

“Preliminarily, they think they could be,” Malloy said. But the adjacent buildings might preclude the idea of adding levels for aesthetic reasons.

Planning Director Christine Brestrup said Desman will give concept site sketches and cost estimates per space, comparing retrofitting that to building from the ground up at another location, such as the parking lot between North Pleasant and North Prospect streets.

No time has yet been spent looking at other sites, she said, but staff does intend to make a conceptual pass at that eventually.

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