Town Center Development
In my opinion, the current development trend in Amherst’s town center is the single most important issue in this election. Our town center in appearance and ambiance is moving rapidly in a direction that will be irreversible and radically different from what many of us want. This election may be your last chance to have any leverage or voice on this matter. In the absence of Town Meeting it will be the Council that will redirect or support the current trajectory.
What I see is our downtown filling up with expensive student housing. It seems to me that the current and projected buildings, if built, will be primarily, if not exclusively, occupied by students. These buildings are effectively dormitories in our town center. I urge every citizen of Amherst to let your opinion be known. If this trend is the wish and the will of the people, I accept it. If it is not we must act decisively to develop and implement a fresh, creative vision for the future of our town center that will extend and enhance the unique and attractive character of the current town center. Know that it is possible to grow organically and with a creative flair that will extend and enhance those qualities we love and desire for our town center. As a Councilor this will be a high priority.
Some of you may reluctantly support this trend in the hope of tax revenue that may ease the constant upward spiral of tax increase and help fund the four capital spending projects that most of us feel are needed. To you I say, the price is not worth the uncertain benefit. Associated cost of infrastructure, support services and parking may eclipse the tax benefit you are hoping to realize. Please ask yourself. Do you support the current radical and irreversible change to the face of our town center?
I urge the business community and developers to consider if it will be to your benefit to have a town center dominated by student housing. Consider a more creative and diverse mixture of architecture, population, business, entertainment and recreation for our town center. I think, we all want variety, vibrancy, and vitality. When we walk the streets of Amherst our eyes should be entertained by variety of organic and diverse architectural infill that makes the town center a collective public art project. Let us collectively agree to this high standard of development that in the end will benefit us all – businesses and the public.