The ambitious Gateway was conceived out of an optimistic, rare partnership between Amherst and UMass, as an urban renewal project with a mixed-used commercial development of high end student housing, commercial retail, and office space, a signature building or two plus significant green space, to revitalize the corridor connecting downtown Amherst with our flagship University.
The Amherst Redevelopment Authority adopted the infant and acted as nursemaid.
But the generational pessimism ingrained in the nearby neighborhood by seasonal waves of rowdy students, combined with overly inclusive public officials who allowed self interested "stakeholders" to hijack the public process, inflicted a heavy toll.
Gateway supporters were so concerned about negotiating the Town Meeting gauntlet--where a two thirds vote is required for zoning changes--that they watered down the project immensely, thus alienating a major player.
On August 4th UMass rescinded the offer to transfer ownership of Frat Row, the Gateway's crown jewel, a two-acre swath of open land dubbed a critical "catalyst" by ARA consultant Gianni Longo. The prime piece of property that ignited the very idea of a "Gateway."
With its heart and soul gutted the grand idea is gone. Now, Gateway belongs to the ages.
Todd Diacon, UMass deputy chancellor (center). During the intensive design charrette he was seated at the only table of ten that came up with a "minimalist" plan for Frat Row: keeping it wide open and green. They called it, "King Philip Street Park."