Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gateway shuffle

Former Frat Row, forever UMass

The Gateway Project, so named because it hopes to transform the main entryway to UMass while seamlessly connecting our largest employer to downtown Amherst, inched forward this evening...but once again demonstrated the changing nature of the project.

Deputy Chancellor Todd Diacon told the Amherst Redevelopment Authority, "We wholeheartedly support the Gateway Project." He also confirmed UMass funding for a traffic study in the Gateway corridor as part of their ongoing Master Plan.

Town Manager John Musante testified the town will sponsor warrant articles for the fall Town Meeting to hire consultants for a marketing study and to map out zoning changes required if the Gateway "vision," now endorsed by both the ARA and UMass, is to become a reality.

Zoning is a key factor which requires a two-thirds vote of Amherst Town Meeting. Since that body will deliberate spending tens of thousands on additional consultants for the Gateway project in November, the majority vote required will be a bellwether of how well the zoning vote--a higher hurdle--will fare.

Diacon also admitted, however, that his office would not advocate for the transfer of Frat Row, a 1.8 acre prime swath of land deemed a "catalyst" by the Gateway Vision consultant, to either the town or the ARA--although he stated UMass would landscape the wide open property and that they had no plans for building construction over the next five years.

UMass purchased the property, formerly home to five rowdy frat houses, for $2.5 million. Originally the Gateway Project commenced when UMass offered to donate the land for a private sector mixed use project but one providing significant housing. After a chorus of complaints from immediate neighbors fearing a resurrection of Frat Row, the housing aspect was significantly altered.

If Town Meeting approves the zoning change, individual private developers will have to undertake the task of transformation, with a form-based zoning code for guidance and a "vision" as inspiration.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Explain this to me. If UMass won't donate frat row, and won't build on it, what is there that is the gateway?

LarryK4 said...

Area around Kendrick Park mostly, but the zoning change will be for the entire corridor (even though UMass does not need a zoning change to do with frat row whatever they please.)

Anonymous said...

I agree. It sounds like the Gateway project is not much of a project anymore.

Anonymous said...

what will the viper developers do now?

Anonymous said...

Well, since ARA won't be taking away any of the office buildings, retail stores, residential housing, the UMass building, the church or the motel, exactly what is left?

Anonymous said...

so they blew how many 10's of thousands on this, and they aint gettin nuthin?

should have paid bach instead

LarryK4 said...

At the moment it's only $30,000 and it was all ARA money (left over state/federal $ from 40 years ago.)

The proposed fall Town Meeting warrant articles for additional consultants will be anywhere between $15,000 and $40,000 for a market analysis and another $30,000 to $40,000 for form based zoning.

If they fail to get a majority vote, Gateway, by any measure is, quite simply, d-e-a-d.

Anonymous said...

can the planning dept do the work on the zoning changes for free?

LarryK4 said...

They would argue with all the projects going on around town the department is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d too thin.

So in a word, "NO".

Anonymous said...

What are the proposed zoning changes?

LarryK4 said...

Mixed use mostly: retail/office space ground-and-lower floors, apartments-condos upper floors.

But with "form based" it has to match a preconceived idea of looking, for lack of a more technical word, nice.

Anonymous said...

**But with "form based" it has to match a preconceived idea of looking, for lack of a more technical word, nice.**

An Amherst committee deciding what looks nice? Ouch. (No reflection on you there LK.)

LarryK4 said...

Well, we already have a Planning Board, Zoning Board and Design Review Board and to some extent all of them judge what's "nice" on a project (although they would never admit to it.)

Anonymous said...

"At the moment it's only $30,000"

You really have gone over to the dark side. What a waste. You count every penny that the town spends on Cherry Hill and then brush off this boondoggle?

LarryK4 said...

Cherry Hill lost over $1 million in operations alone these past 20 years, $40,000 this year. No comparison.

Gateway was a glorious idea that could have generated $1 million annually in tax revenues.

It was a gamble well worth taking.

Ed said...

Larry -- I won't say how much I was involved in this, but the saner minds at UM (both here and 225 Franklin Street) realized that the land had been used to house students and if there wasn't going to be housing for students here, the university really didn't have much of an incentive to *give away* something they could (and are planning to) *sell* to someone else who is already involved in plans to provide housing to students on another part of campus...

LarryK4 said...

UMass should donate it to Hwei-Ling Greeney for a homeless shelter.

UMass could then become a Mecca for the homeless who wish to get a good education (of course UMass would also have to provide that free as well.)

Ed said...

UMass could then become a Mecca for the homeless who wish to get a good education (of course UMass would also have to provide that free as well.)

Larry -- four words never seen in the same version of reality:

UMass
Free
Good Education

UMass has maybe another decade of spiraling downward as it sells its Potemkin Village myth to the guidance counselors of the Great Lakes region, but every 19-year-old going back to his high school screaming "UMass Sucks!" is at least one more guidance counselor who won't blindly recommend UM to the graduating crop of seniors...

It is about a decade until The Great Tag Sale....

Anonymous said...

Ed,

If it's so bad, why are you there?

Anonymous said...

You were clearly drinking the Gateway Kool-Aid. That number is complete baloney.

A million dollars in tax revenues would need over $65 million in taxable property value. All in an area with untaxable churches and the Chabad House, also a small motel that wasn't going away, existing residential houses, and a untaxed UMass building. The frat row was the only free and clear land to develop, and unless you were building a commercial skyscraper, (in which case the abutters really did have cause for alarm) then the tax revenues would only be a fraction of your million dollars.

LarryK4 said...

Take a look at Boltwood Place going up behind Judie's. That building will be in the $4 to $5 million range for valuation. It sits on a footprint of 2,500 square feet.

Take at look at the old frat row. It's around 80,000 square feet, or 32 times larger.

Do the math.

Anonymous said...

You can't just scale up like that and you know it. First of all, you and I know that all 80,000 square feet would not be developed. You have to allow for some green space and lots and lots of parking. The more you plan to pack into this building the more parking space you have to allow, especially if it has a retail mixed in, which needs even more parking than the residential.

LarryK4 said...

A class act developer knows how to do underground parking.

And if the residential tenants and business patrons were mostly associated with nearby UMass, or were empty nesters coming for retirement, they could leave their cars behind.

Anonymous said...

I see. Just as I thought, you were just b.s.ing

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I had nothing better to do over the past freakin year.

Anonymous said...

Larry,

There is no way that this building would rely on underground parking. Then it would have no storage room. Nice try though.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, I had nothing better to do over the past freakin year."

Beats working for a living.

LarryK4 said...

Strangely enough I landed a writing job a couple days ago.

Now I will not have to let meetings get in the way.

Although now that I think about it, the Gateway episode would make a fascinating business "case study."

Anonymous said...

Gateway aside, congrats!

Ed said...

Ed,
If it's so bad, why are you there?


Throwing good money after bad...

Ed said...

And if the residential tenants and business patrons were mostly associated with nearby UMass, or were empty nesters coming for retirement, they could leave their cars behind.

Larry, let me tell you what John Lederlie once told me -- he (who was involved in building much of UMass) candidly said that "we never anticipated that we all would become so much in love with our cars."

The people who have the money to spend in (or live in) your upscale project are going to demand the right to take their cars with them. They simply won't go if they can't drive -- they are that rich and that spoilt.

Anonymous said...

So UMass has offically announced that Frat Row is out of Gateway. Leaving it dead.

LarryK4 said...

Something like that.

Anonymous said...

Pity. It was a great idea to link UMass with the town center after too many years of UMass trying to wall itself off from town.

Anonymous said...

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away. March 15 to be exact.

"The old "Frat Row" at the main Gateway to UMass, 1.86 acres of prime real estate, is currently the only swath of land that is certain to be included in the final plan."

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I believe I mentioned that to Deputy Chancellor Diacon after his brief presentation to the ARA last week.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot UMass. Frat Row WAS the Gateway Project. Everything else built off of that!