Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The decline of downtown Amherst
UPDATE: 9:00 AM Wednesday
Talk about prescient headline. This morning’s crusty Gazette has a banner headline announcing the Jeffery Amherst Bookshop—a downtown institution for over two generations—calling it quits.
Interestingly Barry Roberts said he had two bookstores as tenants (must be the other two) and they seem “to do well”. Well, I guess they will do a little better now.
Original post: Tuesday 10:30 PM
If all roads lead to Rome then you better have ample spaces for folks to park their chariots.
Hometown developer Barry Roberts drove home that message in a 1.5 hour discussion with the Amherst Redevelopment Authority, a quasi-state agency with the power of eminent domain made up of four locally elected members and one Governor appointed.
Barry was the guest speaker at our meeting tonight (also attended by rookie Select Person Diana Stein) And since the undersized downtown parking garage was the last project the ARA had any involvement with, his message hit home.
He noted “A significant change in the atmosphere of the downtown,” for commercial rental property (a fair amount of which he owns.) “There’s just not the demand like 10 or 15 years ago. Most of the people are looking to open restaurants.”
But he noted that Amherst College and Umass are doing a better job with food service, so the students no longer flock to the down town as they did in the good old days (at least not for food anyway)
With downtown business overly centered on restaurants we simply “Don’t have a great mix of stores.”
Barry’s advice? “Amherst has to figure out how to be that special place” (that attracts people to the downtown.) And they will want to park.