Thursday, February 17, 2011

ABC MIA from Town Center?

Once again the Zoning Board of Appeals seems poised to cast another, gasp, pro-business decision; this time in favor of the Amherst Brewing Company, an established bar/restaurant, to relocate its successful operation a mile from town center into a larger commercial space located on a busy direct route to Umass, the Golden Goose of stable employment for all of Western Massachusetts.Formerly The Leading Edge, aka Gold's Gym

Thus it appears the NIMBYs power to snuff development in Amherst is, finally, beginning to wane--on a couple of major fronts. The ZBA, after a protracted hearing process, allowed the variance required for Dr. Kate Atkinson to practice family medicine in a Professional Research Park, thus she will construct a $2.5 million dollar LEED certified 16,000 square foot building, enhancing the taxbase not to mention providing quality medical care to her thousands of patients.

And last week the public hearing to allow ABC to move into the former Leading Edge Gym location in a larger commercial building a mile down the road seemed to garner major public support--including Stephanie O'Keeffe, the Chair of the Amherst Select Board, and Tony Maroulis , the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce and a plethora of patrons far removed from the college aged stereotypes neighbors seem to fear the most.

Those speaking in favor of the variance pointed out the previous tenant, a Health Club operation open 100 hours per week, was far noisier than the brew pub and the Jones Library currently adjacent to ABC has never had complaints about either the noise (and a library would notice) or any odor complaints due to the brewing process or routine cooking.

Meanwhile the Amherst Redevelopment Authority is steaming forward with the Gateway Corridor Project, an urban renewal joint effort between Umass, Amherst and a private tax paying developer to significantly beautify the main corridor connecting the campus to the downtown. We have whittled down the original field of four consultants for the "visioning process" to only two and both will come in to pitch their expertise in person at the next two meetings (in Executive Session.)

The ARA will award the consultant contract by March 1st. The ZBA meets again March 10 to present their decision concerning the ABC. I'll drink to that.

The infamous Anon letter mailed to the neighborhood a few days before the 2/10 ZBA meeting.

Former Amherst Bulletin Columnist Baer Tierkel countered in an email to the Planning Department saying "I received an anonymous letter asking me to write against this move, so be aware that there is a campaign against this move being hatched-anonymously My guess is it is from people who want their Gym (Leading Edge) back , of which I was a member, but do not have a viable plan to make that happen. So they are sabotaging another local business with their anonymous campaign."

They also plan for outdoor dining during the wonderful weather season


Anonymous said...

Mr. Kelley:
We wish to let you and your readers know that the Gym Taskforce trying to reopen the gym is not responsible for that letter. While we wish that we could have the space to reopen the gym, we would not speak against another local Amherst business in such a way.
Thank you,
The Taskforce

Anonymous said...

I don't oppose the ABC moving, but I predict that it will result in them going out of business within two or three years, unless they intend to completely change their business model and customer base.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't get it either, I think it's only successful cause it's in downtown.

LarryK4 said...

Gym Taskforce:

I believe you, as you guys are benign enough.

But even IF the ZBA turns down ABC (not likely at this point) the chances of you reopening anything resembling 'Gold's Gym' or 'The Leading Edge' in that location are right up there with Amherst voting Republican in the next Presidential election.

Anonymous said...

You claim that you see a trend developing based on two episodes and that it is going to continue.

I wish you were right, but you are jumping the gun. The NIMBYs are still the primary political force in town.

LarryK4 said...

I forgot to mention the Lincoln Avenue blockade fiasco. The last public hearing I attended the NIMBYs were on the run there as well.

So that makes three episodes. As Arlo would sing: a damn movement!

Anonymous said...

4:44 and 4:53 are absolutely right. Never underestimate the laziness of students. I can't think of any business that relies on students that ever succeeded outside the main thoroughfares.
Perhaps the new location is convenient enough to the university, but I have my doubts, especially since there is nothing else around it that is of interest to students either.

Anonymous said...

It does seem like a mistake. They may hear a lot of complaints about parking, but, I bet it's more like "It's so hard to find parking when I want to visit downtown and also INCIDENTALLY go to your reataurant"

Anonymous said...

I'm tending to agree with 4:44 and 4:53. I think at least part of the appeal of ABC is its current downtown location. It would be a real shame to lose that restaurant due to a relocation. Even at the busiest time of day/evening/night I've never had a problem finding a parking spot within a reasonable distance. However, I'm not a student and I love their burgers and sweet potato fries, so if they do wind up moving it won't affect me negatively. I'll gladly continue being a customer.

Anonymous said...

I really like ABC, but I'm not sure I will like it as much on University Drive. The outdoor dining won't be the same without the street scene or the possibility of a friend walking past. Also consider the fate of Maplewood, another pub-style restaurant with good food. On the other hand, the crowds at the Hangar show there's a market for another pub on University Drive. I hope the owners have done their homework, because the loss of ABC would be a terrible blow.

Anonymous said...

I think ABC will be successful where ever they are due to
award-winning beers and even the non award winners are excellent.

The food is good and there are always the standards to choose from and alternative interesting choices as well. Their waitstaff is friendly and good...and now there will be easy parking.

We like the downtown location and go frequently but often meet up with folks who don't want to go there due to the parking so when we're with them we go elsewhere.

I have never found it to be much of a student hang out.

Anonymous said...

Oh PUHLEESE, with the not much of a student hang out crap! Who do you think is upstairs around the pool tables and TVs until 1 am. It sure isn't "family diners sipping a small handcrafted beer"

Anonymous said...

a good friend and former employee had a saying whenever I asked him to do something he didn't exactly agree with...."shoot yourself" (suit yourself)

to abc I believe this applies


(ain't broke don't fix it)