Friday, April 29, 2011

Gateway intensive visioning

Town Manager John Musante and Giani Longo of ACP

Last night's three-hour kick off charrette--1st of three--started out with a bang as it looked for a moment like the public meeting would become part two of the Jerry Springer show when Town Manager John Musante was interrupted in his opening remarks by Murray Eisenberg (an immediate neighbor) demanding to know the status of "undergrad housing" within the Gateway.
Murray Eisenberg sits after causing a scene (and soon left the meeting)

Musante took advantage of the jarring segue to announce the "Memorandum of Understanding" signed by Chancellor Holub, former Town Manager Larry Shaffer and ARA Chair John Coull on September 1, 2010 was now "off the table," meaning specifically private student housing would no longer target undergraduates--the major concern of vocal neighbors (assuming developers can stay within state and federal housing law).

And since deputy chancellor Todd Diacon was in attendance and did not throw his magic marker at Musante, it probably has UMass approval. At previous ARA meetings Diacon clearly stated that undergrad housing is not the main interest of his employer.

Todd Diacon, UMass deputy chancellor (center)

Between 70-90 folks crowded into the Bangs Community Center where they sat at random around ten tables, each with a large color zoning map of the north end of Amherst. First assignment was to define the Gateway area. Obviously the UMass owned former Frat Row was ground zero and one table envisioned the area as only that (called "minimalist" by ACP consultant Gianni Longo) and it would stay open green space, while the majority of tables drew broader lines both north and south, east and west or combinations of the two.

The "Preliminary Assessment for Urban Renewal Eligibility" shows (as neighbors pointed out early on) that no "blighted" properties exist in the region, as blighted only applies to vacant structures.

And in the immediate area directly opposite Frat Row a good number of properties are identified as "exhibiting decadent conditions" meaning poorly maintained structures with either peeling paint, broken windows, dangling electrical wires, etc.

In order for the state to approve an "Urban Renewal Plan" and allow the ARA full use of all its tools--including eminent domain--the area must be deemed in need of rehabilitation on a grand scale. But since the "area" has not yet been defined, that process will take place at a later date.

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The fun continues today into the night:

Friday, 4/29 – Open House

8:30–10:00 AM Review of workshop results w/ ARA
10:00 AM–4:00 PM Preliminary Plan Development
Alternative development;
Land use considerations (Schematic Plan)
Transportation considerations (The complete street)
Sketch up 3-D model
4:00-6:00 PM Printing & Open House Preparation
6:00 – 9:00 PM Open House presentation
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Color schematic of the Gateway area showing properties with decadent conditions

9/1/10 Memorandum Of Understanding (not to be confused with a legally binding contract):
click link below to read original agreement:
Agreement with UMass/ARA/Town

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

So when do the anti-solar farm voters in Town Meeting begin trading votes with the anti-Gateway voters?

Anonymous said...

Hey don't go knocking Mr. Eisenberg (correct sp.) about the housing issue. This gateway project is just getting underway and concerns or ideas about student housing have been a part of it as it's evolved. He lives on the front lines (and bought there before the location was such) and right near some of your 'party house of the weekend' sites. He needs to know that another source of undergrad housing won't be landing on his doorstep. Now that more details have come out I'm guessing he's a little happier about the project. (but only a little)
-Tom in Noho.

LarryK4 said...

Bad behavior is bad behavior. If I can highlight that from the kids in party houses, I should be consistent and highlight it (even if alcohol was not a factor) when a senior citizen demonstrates it at a public meeting.

Anonymous said...

When do the solar farm voters get their "intensive Visioning" time with the town manager?

LarryK4 said...

Well they did have that fun large public meeting at the beginning of the month, and I'm told he has met with them in smaller groups recently.

Anonymous said...

The process on the solar farm is flawed until every last person in the neighborhood and every last person in town, for that matter, has expressed every last feeling and opinion on this topic to his or her very last breath.

Until that happens, no decision should be made.

This is the way it must go in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

"Visioning"

Isn't that what we always do in Amherst instead of actually accomplishing something?