Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gateway: "Not dead yet!"

I was considering a motion for the next Amherst Redevelopment Authority meeting to use our remaining funds ($30,000) to hire a hitman to take out Amherst Chamber of Commerce Director Tony Maroulis over his Front Page/Above-The-Fold comment in today's Amherst Bulletin: "I think what we came up with for the Gateway parcel is not so exciting." Yikes!

But then I received this email:

Sent: Thu, Jul 14, 2011 11:16 am
Subject: FW: Gateway article corrected quote for blog

My quote was taken out of context within a much larger conversation that was a much more relevant expression of my thoughts on Gateway. I said I wasn't excited about Gateway with the caveat that I said that that money was well spent. Especially since there is consensus around high-density zoning near and around Kendrick Park. The plan was also a rejection of the status quo, which in the end, even if we don't get what I think is exciting is a big step in the right direction.

I also made a lot of salient points about people insisting change is bad, expressed so within the article by Louis Greenbaum. Change is always happening, and we need to make some changes to be the best college town in America.

The project's legacy will be long felt, I believe, even if nothing is constructed on the parcel right away. People acknowledged what's there now is not acceptable, which suggests to me something MUST happen in the future.

Tony Maroulis


The Bully Reports

The article also makes it sound like the ARA is limping off into the sunset, dejected and defeated. Hardly. At our most recent June 30 meeting the ARA unanimously voted to accept/endorse the plan/concept/vision put forth by our consultant Gianni Longo, and to continue as the lead agency to promote the mutually beneficial partnership with UMass for the development of the former Frat Row, two acres of exceeding prime, open, shovel-ready, property.


Anonymous said...

Lots of ARA crowing over the last year (as they pondered taking land from property owners and only gave lip service to community objections) gives way to eating crow.

LarryK4 said...

Spoken like a dyed in the wool NIMBY.

SOMETHING is going to happen on the old Frat Row--so get used to it. If UMass goes it alone they could put another Southwest Tower there that would pay zero property taxes.

Dale said...

So once again we have NIMBY with all kinds of plans not to build but no alternative that will generate revenue for the town. And if you do Anon 12:15 what is it? Please don't throw out the we should have more community meetings crap. That is exactly how we landed where we are today with meeting, after meeting, after meeting with never any constructive resolve. I think the town has great potential, and would like to see it grow and keep a it's services intact. But the answer is not, let's have another override, and reject anything does not resemble the norm of yesteryear.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I wonder how that 2013 override is going to do?

Because you know it's coming, as sure as death and taxes and endless complaints about inadequate process in decisionmaking in Amherst.

Ed said...

Larry, they SHOULD put another Southwest there out of spite. People donated to Lombardi so that he could take those frat houses away from the kids living in them, OK maybe it needed to be done.

But there is a desperate need for grad housing and I don't see that being met anywhere, there is a desperate need to either restrict freshman admissions (and that means layoffs) or build more housing for them, and there isn't a whole lot of dry land that doesn't have things on it.

Now the ideal thing would be for the EPA/etc to agree to a "trade" -- the old frat row remains parkland, but they get to fill in the swamps behind the Mullins Center and both build student housing there as well as the 2nd 116 access interchange.

But a "Gateway" that doesn't include student housing? Exactly whom do you think will be supporting the businesses you intend to somehow have there?

Anonymous said...

Gateway unraveling. This has been coming for a long time. Typical Amherst Town Hall stance: hubris, hypocrisy, dishonesty, and arrogance.

Being questioned all the way to Boston now.

LarryK4 said...

Funny how I have a NIMBY Anon whining about the Solar Farm pointing to the way town officials handled Gateway as being soooooo inclusive of the neighborhoods and the Solar issue the exact opposite, and yet you put them both in the same category.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand Maroulis' position. What is he saying?

LarryK4 said...

He's saying the original idea was sexy and exciting and now, after much vetting (although some NIMBY Anons still think it was shoved down their throats) it is less so, but still WAY better than the status quo.

Or in other words: half a loaf is better than none.

Anonymous said...

I think the ARA did more to kill this than the abutters. They came off as arrogant jerks. The loudest voices run for these positions and then they wonder why they turn everyone off.

LarryK4 said...

Actually over the past ten years when the ARA was all but dormant we had a problem getting anyone to run for a seat.

Four years ago I was elected with write in votes. And we had one more vacant seat that nobody even realized was vacant.

Although...if Vince O'Connor or Jim Oldham had gotten in when they ran. Yikes!

Tony Maroulis said...

I think Larry's representation of my garbled, hasty, unedited email to him is correct.

I happen to think that Amherst should and can build signature spaces outside of the campuses. We should aspire to reflect the ambitions of our institutions and the hopes and dreams of kids being educated in our town. So it's natural for me to be inclined toward a more intensive use for that particular piece of land, because it's open and the barriers to construction needn't be difficult.

There's already a striking building in the district in Gordon Hall, so I feel what goes on that 2-acre parcel should at least have the same architectural ambition. The two flex spaces and greenery there seem a whole lot less exciting (hence my quote) than a mixed use four story building complex.

But what is proposed is not terrible. If we can have a more lively, but controlled, area within the district that helps promote a more active use of the university by the public and the downtown by the university then it's a big win.

What WAS exciting about the Gateway process is that generally most people were supportive of improving the district. There's a lot I love about the vision. I love the idea of professional/graduate housing throughout the district. I love the thinking that grocery store and a signature building might be considered in the future.

I was also excited that the area around Kendrick Park became the focal point for good discussion. A zoning change for the west side of the park can activate northern section of downtown. I can see the park being a real center for activity.

I think the money, effort, and time by the ARA was well spent. I take from this process that the status quo is unacceptable to a majority of folks. The process was fair. People talked. I've said as much in a Bulletin piece after the charrettes concluded that I was encouraged. I still am.

Ed said...

I love the idea of professional/graduate housing throughout the district.


Amherst needs to house the "thirtysomethings" -- young adults (not undergrads) aged 25-40 -- single people who don't want to live in dumps and who have outgrown kegstands.

If you don't house these people NOW (and this has been building for 20 years) then when they buy a house, it won't be in Amherst. When they think in terms of schools, it won't be "the schools my newborn will go to in 5 years", and your town will die.

All of the people making this town what it is (for better or worse) will be retired/dead in 20 years and if you don't have a new generation of young professionals (and that includes both recently graduated undergrads in their first professional job and graduate students) living in your town, you will not have a community in the future.

This is part of why I am saying that Amherst is not going to survive the decade -- you can't be a town of just retirees and drunken undergrads...

Anonymous said...

Do I hear the 2013 UNDERRIDE?

Just out of spite, you gotta do it...

I aint afraid of no roach... said...

Leave the land as an open space for sledding. It's perfect for children attending Amherst's schools because they will have to develop an appreciation for going no-where...

Anonymous said...

Agree with Tony at 11:12 (even agree with Ed's subsequent comment and that is rare) but please God save us from 'architectural ambition.' Please. The ARA should include a No Eyesore clause in all contracts, in bold type. Let the ambitious architects do their damage in some other community so I won't have to look at the results twice a day as I drive past.

Ed said...

Also, a "no mold" clause. That means old-fashioned designs with pitched roofs (this isn't LA, we get snow/rain here), no more defective buildings that become sick buildings and the rest.

I would like to see the ARA take a strong stance on HEALTHY buildings.

You can be as creative as you want to as long as the buildings are not mold sponges...

Anonymous said...

Ed said "Also, a "no mold" clause"

I wish this blog had a "no-Ed" clause.