Thursday, August 4, 2011
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.