Monday, November 3, 2014

The Best Laid Plans ...

 Town Gown Steering Committee:  high ranking UMass & town officials, and other stakeholders (although Chancellor Subbaswamy was MIA)

After almost exactly one year from their inaugural meeting (10/30/13) the sprawling 24 member Town Gown Steering Committee tonight heard the "final presentation" from U3 Advisors, their $60,000 consultant charged with honing a vision for joint development of the economic and housing kind.

 Standing room only crowd for the presentation

Essentially what we got was a repackaging of the ill fated Gateway Project, another one-year endeavor that used a $30,000 consultant to put forth a vision of a grand mixed use development with student housing along the North Pleasant Street corridor, using the University's two acre parcel, the former Frat Row.  A project resulting from a public/private partnership that would house students, provided commercial amenities, and pay property taxes.

Former Frat Row North Pleasant Street at the "gateway" to UMass

Now called by U3 the "North Pleasant Corridor"

Mass Ave plan uses UMass parking lots and Phillips Street, the slummiest street in Amherst,  for a mixed use development

Current map of the North Pleasant Corridor/Gateway area

Study after study and now again this final report have concluded that Amherst does not have enough housing, driving up prices and driving out low and middle income workers. And our demographic is obviously studentcentric, reflected by the fact that Amherst has the lowest median age in the state.

You simply cannot talk about housing without including students, but when you do that -- because of the rancid reputation fostered by an irresponsible few -- neighbors bristle.

That bristle helped to kill the Gateway Project, The Retreat student housing project in North Amherst and they seem overly determined to kill the 1 East Pleasant Street project in the downtown because it dares to embrace student renters.

Simply put the town and University need to come up with a public/private partnership that can build a development to house STUDENTS without being torpedoed by the Pachecho Rule.

Amherst resident Stan Rosenberg, a proud UMass graduate and l-o-n-g-t-i-m-e unabashed cheerleader for our flaghip University, is about to become President of the Mass Senate.

Surely he can steer a bill through the legislature to get not only approval for a public/private partnership, but an equally important component to any deal:  financing. 

No more studies, no more talk.  Just do it.


Anonymous said...

I don't know... don't you think we could do a few more studies?

Dr. Ed said...

Prediction: Stan will run for cover when Eastern Mass hears about end run around Pachetto Rule....

Trust me on this -- I know some powerful folks who would like to see it revoked -- and they will jump on this for that purpose.

Anonymous said...

Larry or anyone other readers out there - I'm wondering what percentage of population students make up in the larger apartment complexes in Amherst (Mill Valley, Southpoint, etc.)?

Anonymous said...

The consultants did not have the resources to survey the occupants of the complexes, but they identified such data as a key component of further action.

The animosity and sheer rudeness of some of our town residents was, frankly, embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

Will someone please do a study on studies?