356 College St. From Pizza to Pizza
The number one reason Amherst has such a high property tax rate (well, besides the gold plated schools) is simple math: half of all the property in town is owned by tax exempts and the other half is disproportionally make up of homeowners and rental units which shoulder 90% of the tax burden.
Commercial property makes up a desultory 10%.
So it's always sad to see commercial property become residential such as the old Watroba's General Store in North Amherst Center. Which to be fair, happened a long time ago, well before the recent purchase by Jamie Cherewatti.
Watroba's General Store circa 1960s
From the book North Amherst and Cushman
But I find it telling that this 100 yard swap is taking place in East Amherst where Pioneer Valley Pizza is moving from 20 Belchertown Road, to 356 College Street. Sure, maybe it's that they need less space than their previous 1,350 square feet spot, or maybe they got a better deal on rent.
10 Belchertown Road, former location Pioneer Valley Pizza
Or maybe it's because the building itself is in much better repair.
Yes it's the oldest saying in the evil book of capitalism: "When products compete they get better". And what Amherst desperately needs is competition in the student rental business. Because now, with such huge demand and a strangled limited supply, the competition is at best token.
If developments like The Gateway, now dead, or The Retreat, now under attack, were allowed to happen off-campus students would flock to them like swallows to Capistrano. The Mom-and-Pop operations that do a despicable lousy job of upkeep would have to step up their game to compete, or sell out to a more responsible investors.
Either way, increasing the supply of safe, quality and affordable housing is the answer. And we need it now.