Amherst Town Council confirms decision to remove parking, remake North Common

  • A town resident sits on a tree box at the North Common in Amherst. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/25/2021 4:58:08 PM

AMHERST — An overhaul of the North Common in front of Town Hall, which will involve removing the parking lot and replacing it with a plaza and landscaping, will move forward.

The Town Council, in a revote immediately following a public hearing on the project required by its Public Ways Policy, confirmed its March 22 vote.

The identical 8-5 vote in favor of the $1.44 million renovation means the project can continue to be planned and to break ground, likely sometime next year.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said Tuesday the timeline is to start work after the University of Massachusetts commencement next spring. That timing will depend on completing plans and reviews by town committees.

District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam said she supports the North Common makeover because it will preserve and restore a historic area of downtown, especially as new mixed-use buildings rise at the northern end of the town center.

Pam was joined in support by At-Large Councilors Mandi Jo Hanneke and Andy Steinberg, Council President Lynn Griesemer, District 3 Councilor George Ryan, District 4 Councilors Evan Ross and Steve Schreiber and District 5 Councilor Shalini Bahl-Milne.

In holding the public hearing and redoing its vote, the council discussed the impact on revenues for the transportation enterprise fund in losing the parking lot.

District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen said that in normal times the Main Street lot brings in $51,000 a year, as well as upwards of $7,000 in fines, and that a majority of businesses oppose losing the parking.

At-Large Alisa Brewer Councilor, District 1 Councilor Sarah Swartz, District 3 Councilor Pat De Angelis and District 5 Councilor Darcy DuMont agreed with Schoen in voting against the project.

Though the 34 spaces in the lot will be removed, the plan is to add seven angled and back-in spaces on the south side of Main Street and eight parallel on-street parking spaces on the west side of Boltwood Avenue. Additional spaces could be created on the east side of South Pleasant Street between Main Street and Spring Street.

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