Monday, July 23, 2007

Big Doings in little old Amherst

The Amherst Redevelopment Authority 7/10 meeting became a walking tour of the downtown as we exited historic Town Hall and headed over to the equally historic Lord Jeff Inn. Knowing Town Meeting’s affinity for old brick buildings, I was relieved to hear the $5 million renovation would not alter the current structure. Amherst’s skyline is safe.

The expansion behind the historic brick building will require the demolition of a house or two currently owned by Amherst College. Selectman Rob Kusner mentioned a small stream that runs immediately behind (or under) the Inn, although currently it’s bone dry.

They could always use “replication” and install a large aquarium in the new lobby.

The Town Manager pointed to the Spring Street parking lot and explained his grand vision of an Intermodal (rhythms with yodel) Transport Center melding a 400-car garage, bus depot, rail station, and bicycle storage.

Even if Amherst College donated the current parking lot (they politely declined) the cost for the transportation hub approaches $10 million and even if the Feds paid half, that still leaves a $5 million tab for the town.

Yes, the Boltwood Garage cost a little over $4 million--but Senator Rosenberg brought home the bacon in the form of a $3 million state grant. And the ARA donated the land, valued at $350,000 (with only one condition: the garage had to be expandable).

Even then it took years and years of wrangling to overcome the NIMBY concerns of neighbors, for the most part folks living in a complex the ARA renovated from a school to senior housing.

Selectman Kusner then floated the idea of taking land a little further east, closer to the tracks. Aha! No wonder the ARA has become such a hot prom date. We have the power of eminent domain, and a recent legal opinion saying we can use it anywhere in Amherst

Classic Chevrolet, 40 Dickinson Street, has been in business since 1883. Although the facility is a tad tired, it is one of those old brick buildings that Town Meeting and the Historical Commission (who can delay demolition for a year) are quite fond of. And since it touches Kelley Square, I’m kind of fond of it as well.

And, unlike the adjacent Amherst College parking lot, they pay taxes (over $8,000 last year). So NO, I would not be in favor of taking it from Ms. Fungaroli, who has owned it since 1953.

To Be Continued…

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