left to right: Todd Diacon, John Musante, Jonathan Tucker
If nothing else tonight's Amherst Redevelopment Authority meeting reaffirmed the strong partnership already forged between the ARA, Umass and the town, as Deputy Chancellor Todd Diacon and Town Manager John Musante clarified their vision for the Gateway Project before the ARA and a packed room of 50 onlookers, many of them concerned neighbors defending their backyards from the perceived spectre of the college town bogeyman: undergraduates.
Musante outlined four main objectives:
1) Create a development that the community wants.
2) Strengthen the neighborhood by constructing higher end housing to compete with seedy substandard slums.
3) Increase the towns tax base, stimulate jobs and bring customers to the downtown via the Gateway corridor.
4) Give the town a significant say in what gets developed there because indeed something is going to get developed one way or the other.
Deputy Chancellor Diacon called the Gateway a "signature attraction at the entrance to our campus". And to counter the constant complaint from neighbors about substantial undergrad student housing being a core requirement of the deal, Diacon pointed out the University is currently constructing 1,500 beds for the Commonwealth Honors College in the heart of the campus which goes a long way towards alleviating the needs for undergraduate housing.
If Gateway is built and the doesn't include undergraduates in the apartments that would "fine with us." The University is not demanding the housing be "only for undergraduates."
In his closing remarks, borrowing a them from President Obama (who borrowed it from 'Bob The Builder'), the Town Manager said confidently "I think we can do this. We have the talent. We can do something pretty special along North Pleasant Street."
Out of the four proposals received to lead the vision process, the ARA hopes to select a consultant by March 1st.
View from the head table