Monday, September 20, 2010
ARA road trip report
If Hanover, NH represents the after picture for smart successful mutually beneficial development, our recent trip to Mansfield, CT provided the perfect before picture.
After endless design discussions dating back to the 1970s groundbreaking is imminent on Storrs Center, a $250 million urban mixed use development that will create something we here in Amherst take for granted--an actual town center with a town green providing a laid back ambiance attractive to everyday folks whose numbers will no doubt increase with the addition of 700 market rate rental units.
Like the proposed 'Gateway Project' in Amherst, a partnership where the town benefits by increasing taxable commercial development, stimulating jobs and local commerce while the educational institution benefits by increasing quality housing to attract more students and professors.
The ambitious 'Storrs Center' is a joint development between Mansfield town officials, UConn--the dominant employer in the region--and the local business community who operate in the University's shadow.
The school and the town split equally the $250,000 annual budget of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership a sort of Chamber of Commerce created for just this project (with only two full time employees.)
Besides the Amherst Redevelopment Authority, new Amherst Town Manager John Musante and Amherst Chamber of Commerce executive director Tony Maroulis, Umass Deputy Chancellor Todd Diacon and Executive Director of the Office of External Relations Nancy Buffone also attended, demonstrating the commitment to the 'Gateway Project' from our flagship educational partner.
Now of course, it's up to Amherst Town Meeting to provide a vital component of the deal by rezoning the land in question to allow the mixed use development that will revitalize the neighborhood and our downtown.
Main Street Mansfield now: NOT a scene Rockwell would have painted.
This WW2 era building owned by UConn will be demolished, the pavement torn up and the open space turned into a town center green.