Luke and Madeleine Lombard: Designing Main Street for this future

  • Downtown Northampton on Main Street. DAN LITTLE

Published: 6/3/2021 12:30:00 PM

We are siblings who’ve grown up in Northampton and love our hometown. We offer two reasons why we’re so invested in the redesign of our Main Street — one reason is somber; the other is hopeful.

On Halloween when we were 9 and 11, walking home from trick-or-treating downtown, we witnessed a car strike down a pedestrian in a Northampton crosswalk. The image of him briefly standing after the impact, then collapsing to the ground, is seared in our memories. PallavParakh, a 35-year-old local medical doctor, died two weeks later from brain trauma leaving behind his heartbroken spouse and toddler.

Now ages 17 and 20, we have, thankfully, many happy memories of downtown that balance this tragic one. We love this place so much, in fact, that one of us has stayed here for college, and the other is planning the same.

Now vaccinated, we are rediscovering our favorite downtown haunts and finding new ones. The closing to cars of Strong Avenue — where we can eat outdoors under shade trees, hear live music without the din of cars, and just hang out — is giving us a taste of what is wonderfully possible for Main Street.

We want a Main Street where pedestrians can cross a narrow crosswalk without contending with rushed or confused drivers. We want a Main Street where drivers know their lane, can’t swerve impatiently to pass slower traffic, and whose drivers’ view of pedestrians isn’t blocked by a mountain of snow piled in the center of the street.

We also want a Main Street designed and built for our future. Our future will be hotter and stormier, yes, but it will also have automated electric vehicles and better, more connected rail trails. People will arrive by bicycle and automated EVs without needing to park. Drivers will have smart apps telling them exactly where to find parking. They will come here to spend money and socialize because Northampton offers beauty, experiences, and unique things that digital purchases can’t.

We should be designing Main Street for this future, which is really right around the corner. The city’s current preferred design doesn’t get us there. This is our one chance. Let’s get this right.

Luke and Madeleine Lombard


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