Monday, February 13, 2012

A Gateway, Guaranteed

UMass director of planning Dennis Swinford paid a courtesy call to the Amherst Planning Board on February 1st to talk about their "Master Plan" looking forward to the next fifty years, and at the end of the presentation he was queried about the Gateway Project.

You can tell by his reaction he was a tad unprepared for the question, perhaps why he blurted out the unvarnished truth.

 Dennis Swinford, UMass planning

Originally the Gateway Corridor Project was a joint development project between UMass, the town and the Amherst Redevelopment Authority. Umass would donate the 2 acre former Frat Row and the ARA would commission a private top shelf developer to build a grand mixed use project providing badly needed housing, parking and commercial business space--all of it on the tax rolls.

Neighbors, fearing a revival of the Animal House Frat Row days, lobbied long and hard, meeting after meeting to abort any part of the plan concerning housing. They brow beat town officials into altering the grand vision to an unrecognizable shell of its former self. UMass withdrew the offer of Frat Row.

On the night Deputy Chancellor Todd Diacon broke the bad news to the ARA he stated reassuringly, UMass had no plans to build on the property "for the next five years."

Chancellor Holub and Town Manager Larry Shaffer signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" at the 9/1/10 community breakfast (in front of 400 witnesses) jump starting the grand Gateway Corridor plan. Shaffer would later run off from his wife and the town to Michigan, Chancellor Holub was run off by the by the rough and tumble Boston pols, and Deputy Chancellor Todd Diacon just found another job with Kent State University.

And Gateway will become townhouse apartments (like North Village Apartments) and a signature building at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, North Pleasant Street, and Butterfield Terrace.

Now neighbors will get the devil they don't know.


Anonymous said...

Hubris thy name was Gateway. The whole thing spun out of control with talk of eminent domain takings, etc.

Anonymous said...

And so the one thing the neighbors didn't want is exactly all that is going in there. Oh well. Good job, neighbors!!

Anonymous said...

When will the planning department actually work with neighborhoods as partners?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the "Save Ferry Street" debacle in South Hadley. The neighbors fought tooth and nail not to have 28 $4-500,000 condos built in their neighborhood. Now I hear it will be 50-60 low-income housing units that doesn't have to go to the Planning Board.

LarryK said...

The old "be careful what you wish for" routine.

Since the property at Frat Row is exempt from local zoning oversight UMass could build another Southwest tower if they wished.

bach said...

the new townhouses will be party house of the week. poor nimbys

umass + amherst should put in a trolley from the cherry hill arboretum in north amherst to Kendrick park. preserve the trolley stop on campus, while adding additional ones. use wind and solar generated at umass... better yet use sterling engines to generate the juice

Anonymous said...

Does bach understand what would be involved to use a Sterling engine on a vehicle? Or that there is already a bus route along that run?

Personally, I would like to see Amherst do what Boston did in the 1970s -- declare an "Adult Entertainment District" and give up.

Come to think of it, weren't there old people in Amherst in the 1970s? Didn't the noise then bother them?

bach said...

the sterling engine is housed in a building and it feeds the system

busses pollute with there fossil fuel. when I was a grad student there I rode near busses frequently.... not pleasant

a 21st century trolley would gain national attention and bring money to town.

bach said...