Showing posts with label Downtown Amherst. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Downtown Amherst. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Don't Mess With God

The parking lot has been used for over a generation for Church parking

Only in Amherst would town officials declare Feburary 1st (St Brigid's Day) a day to celebrate Irish heritage while simultaneously instituting a new overnight parking program that bans parking in the town owned lot immediatley adjacent to -- you guessed it -- St Brigid's Church.

New parking policy started Feb 1st (No Parking 7-9 AM)

Click to enlarge/read

There They Go Again

26 Spring Street is currently an open lot

Archipelago Investments has invested greatly over the past few years filling in the Amherst skyline with five story mixed use buildings that are mostly residential:  Boltwood Place, Kendrick Place and One East Pleasant which is now under construction.

On March 1st they go before the Planning Board for yet another similar project at 26 Spring Street in the heart of downtown for a 38 unit five story building with 1,000 square feet of commercial on the ground floor.

Commercial in yellow

Although located in the Municipal Parking District and therefor exempt from the usual 2 parking spaces per unit bylaw they will be providing 17 parking spaces.

And since the property is located in the (BG) General Business District they are only requesting two Special Permits from the Planning Board under Site Plan Review to increase lot coverage from 70% to 77% and a rear setback of 1' vs. 0 or 10'.

All in all very modest requests.  Especially considering the significant property tax increase to town coffers and the increase in badly needed rental housing stock. 

Since the property is nestled among commercial buildings (Lord Jeff, Police Station, Grace Church) NIMBY noise should not be overly deafening

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Even In Amherst

Although trounced 10-1 in Amherst -- and some insiders were surprised it was not greater -- the town will display the 30 commemorative American flags tomorrow or early Friday morning in the downtown to honor the peaceful transition of power occurring in Washington, D.C. aka Inauguration Day, when Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States.

Some of you may remember back in 2004 after the contentious reelection of President Bush, Amherst Town Meeting member Pat Church confused the flag of Puerto Rico with that of Texas and snatched it from the pole immediately in front of Town Hall.

So I am a tad concerned about the security of the 30 commemorative flags -- especially after the flag burning incident at Hampshire College.

Our country is founded on the fundamental right to peacefully protest.  And yes, even flag burning is protected by the First Amendment.

Just not these taxpayer funded public flags originally paid for out of the Veterans Department commemorations budget.


Click to enlarge/read
UPDATE Friday morning:

Amhersst even broke out the really BIG flag, although not nearly large enough to absorb all the tears that will be shed in town today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Major Much Needed Parking Refresh

New machines are like Steve Austin:  "Better than before. Better, stronger & faster."

For the multitudes of you who have hated the multi-space parking machines the town installed five years ago take heart as all 12 could be replaced as early as this summer with much more user friendly ones from another company, which promises a more Apple computer like experience with their high tech gizmos.

This morning the Downtown Parking Working Group heard a one hour sales presentation for the Parkeon machines and DPW Director Guilford Mooring and Parking Czar Claire McGinnis will check out the other company that is on the state buying list but both seemed impressed with this particular product.

Current machines are hard to maintain in harsh New England environment

The town paid $110,000 for the Duncan machines but then soon had to add a lighted kiosk around them because the tiny monochrome screen was so hard to read at night and hard wired all of them because the batteries were not overly reliable, at an additional cost of about $25,000.

The current machines also used aging 2G transmission and the slow response of the keypad often causes user input errors.  And since they don't give a paper receipt,first time users are often left confused.

The Parkeon machines have been in use in Northampton for 12 years so are New England weather proven and are built like B52 bombers:  an indestructible outer steel shell designed to be upgraded with plug and play parts.

The base cost of the new machines is $85,000 but with a couple of bells and whistles will probably cost around the same as the original machines they are replacing.  Although they come solar equipped the town will use the hard wiring already installed in the same kiosk locations.

The machines can be programmed for either pay by space or license plate number or since it has a print function can also do the older style "pay and display" taking credit card or change.  And with the mobile app available consumers can conveniently pay online right from their ubiquitous smartphone.

The 7" color hi definition screen can be customized to display the town logo and can run commercials for local businesses with the printed ticket displaying a coupon offer.

 Downtown Parking Working Group at work

Clearly a double win for businesses in the downtown ... and everyday consumers. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Friday Follies

Craig's Place Homeless Shelter at First Baptist Church opened November 1st

Maybe it was the nice weather combined with the recent reopening of the Homeless Shelter but in the span of just a couple hours APD responded to three separate calls relating to our less fortunate denizens who call "the streets of Amherst" home.

Police had to respond to Town Manager Paul Bockelman's office because one irate homeless man was angrily confronting Mr. Bockelman about a perceived injustice in his treatment by either APD or District Court.

But police did not have to go far to find him because as they headed to Town Hall he left and headed to the police station to yell at them.

Kind of funny in one respect I suppose.  But the real problem with these types of antics is it diverts police from potentially mores serious activities.

About a minute before the Town Manager called, Dispatch sent two units to an apartment complex in East Amherst for a possible domestic abuse in progress.

Since these calls can be very serious (a leading cause of death for police officers) you always send in more than one unit.  But since no other units were available one of them had to break off and divert back to Town Hall to assist the Town Manager.

 Homeless man angrily walks away from APD

Fortunately the domestic situation was nothing serious and after blowing off steam yelling at the Town Manager and police the homeless man stomped off towards town center.

A few minutes later police responded back to town center because another group of homeless individuals loitering in front of businesses were hassling a UPS delivery man and other store patrons.  Officers quickly "moved them along."

 Police moved along a gaggle of homeless folks from in front of downtown businesses

And over the course of the day Dispatch fielded a few calls for "Football Phil" walking in and out of traffic holding his nasty anti-Hillary sign.  You may remember Phil as he also did the same last spring holding a nasty anti-Bernie sign.

 Football Phil with a political sign instead of his football in front of AFD Central Station

Like an Internet troll, Phil loves to rile people up.  He also came close to being arrested for aggressively confronting Amherst Regional High School students who walked out of school in protest on Monday and marched to the downtown, which is of course his personal playground.

Saturday 2:00 PM.  The entire APD shift called to town center after woman calls 911 saying Phil punched a woman.  My guess is she got physical with him first.  Which is of course exactly what he wants.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Carriage Shops Sunday 11/6
Carriage Shops Monday 11/7

The l-o-n-g awaiting demolition of ye old Carriage Shops originally built as the Carriage Inn Motel back in the early 1960s happened today and the actual demolition took less than six hours.

Archipelago will soon start construction of One East Pleasant Street not far from their other five story mixed use Kendrick Place or further uptown's Boltwood Place.

 Archipelago will have built three new 5-story mixed use buildings this decade

The downtown is finally seeing revitalization. Now we just need a new improved government.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Amherstworks Gets To Work

The main open space is big enough to fly a drone

The new shared co-worker space where entrepreneurs will huddle opened for business today in the former First National Bank building, a downtown icon for almost 100 years.

Back in the day bricks and mortar banks like First National were drivers of the economy.

These days it's the Internet, and with one gigabit WiFi at Amherstworks and coffee from Amherst Coffee, building a better mousetrap has never been easier.

The vault conference room
 Meetings will certainly be secure

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Asian Invasion

Formosa reopening at Amherst Chinese location 62 Main Street

Three new Asian restaurants will be opening (or reopening) by the first of the year helping to maintain Amherst's downtown reputation as a destination spot for fine cuisine.

Last night the Select Board approved an all alcohol license for a Steam Seafood Japanese Restaurant opening in the former location of All Things Local.

The Select Board grilled attorney Tom Reidy over two liquor law violations the company had at their Longmeadow location three years ago but ended up unanimously supporting issuing the $3,500 license.
Attorney Tom Reidy being grilled (or steamed) by Amherst Select Board

Of course it would have looked a little odd if they rejected the petitioner over that since they cut such slack to Panda East over the past year.  

 Ichiban is Japanese for "number one"

Property owner Barry Roberts told the board an industrial strength dehumidifier is being installed in the 3,750 square foot location to handle the steam given off by the electrical steam pots that will be used at every table.

A short while later the Select Board unanimously approved a Common Victualler licene for LiLi's Chinese Restaurant opening in the former location of Baku's African Restaurant at 197 North Pleasant Street.

 Baku's closed last month after 11 years in operation

Monday, October 24, 2016

Black Lives Still Matter

For the second time this year the Black Lives Matter banner went up over South Pleasant Street, the gateway to the heart of downtown.

Although this time, unlike 7 months ago, there was no fanfare whatsoever.

Maybe that's a good thing.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

If You Zone It ...

South Prospect Street

The Planning Board approved 1.5 of 3 petition articles all seeking to change zoning from limited business (BL) to general business (BG) on the outskirts of the downtown to encourage the development of mixed use buildings which would bring more employees and residents to the downtown while paying significantly higher property taxes.

Currently the Amherst property tax base is made up of 90% residential and only 10% commercial.  

The change to BG zoning would allow for denser development, aka taller five story buildings, with greater lot coverage, giving developers an incentive to put their property to a higher and better use.

 Triangle and Cottage Streets

The Planning Board unanimously voted not to approve the zoning change for the east side of Triangle Street because they were worried about the mostly owner occupied homes along Cottage Street.

But they did approve the change on the east side of South Prospect Street and about half of the requested change along North Pleasant Street but only for properties on the south side of Hallock Street.

These parcels are of course that much closer to the heart of the downtown and just last month the Planning Board approved Special Permits for 236 North Pleasant that allows developers Barry Roberts and Curt Shumway to have one addition floor, going from three to four.

West side  North Pleasant Street from Cowls Lane down to Hallock but not north of there

The Historical Commission enacted a one year delay back in January on the project so it would be kind of ironic if that delay ends up benefiting the local developers should the zoning change -- which requires a two thirds Town Meeting vote -- passes.

The zoning article petitioner, Jerry Guidera, confirmed he will trim back that particular article to only include the properties south of Hallock Street, but will continue to move forward with the Triangle Street rezoning in spite of the unanimous vote against it by the Planning Board.

And considering how Town Meeting often does just the opposite of Planning Board recommendations, that may not be such a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Downtown Merger

35 South Pleasant is adjacent to Amherst Town Common

The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Amherst Business Improvement District will be consolidating their two downtown offices into one larger better located one at 35 South Pleasant Street in the heart of downtown.

Chamber Director Tim O'Brien hopes to be serving hot chocolate to folks attending the lighting of the Merry Maple in early December from the new shared location.

 Chamber's current location opposite Jones Library

Since their current location is owned by Barry Roberts it probably will not take long to rent it out to another business entity or perhaps Amherst Coffee sill simply expand into it.

 Click to enlarge/read

Thursday, September 22, 2016

North End Revitalization Continues

236 N Pleasant and 12 Hallock (behind) will make way for new 4 story office building
1st new office building in Amherst in over a generation

The Planning Board voted unanimously last night (6-0) to grant Site Plan Review and Special Permits relating to height, number of floors, and set backs for a new office building at 236 North Pleasant Street proposed by two local developers Barry Roberts and Curt Shumway.

Roberts owns the building fronting North Pleasant Street and Shumway owns the one behind on Hallock Street that will be demolished for parking.  The Historic Commission enacted a one year demolition delay on the two buildings but that expires in January.

Amazingly not a single abutter appeared at the hearing to complain about noise, traffic, or the possibility that students from the Isenberg School of Management could rent some of the space.

The Carriage Shops directly across the street are slated to be demolished for One East Pleasant Street, which will be a five story mixed-use building.

 Carriage Shops across the street will be replaced by 5-story mixed use building

Thus this new office building across the street will not nearly be out of scale for the neighborhood.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blockbuster Party

North Pleasant Street from Amity to Triangle Street became a no vehicle zone

One good thing about our lack of rainy weather is it makes for a perfect backdrop for outdoor activities -- especially on a large scale.  And in our little college town things don't get much larger than the annual Block Party.

DPW used fleet of large vehicles to close off streets

Thousands of residents converged on a safely closed off downtown to partake of our culture, cuisine and camaraderie.

AFD will miss having such a Central location (but that's about all they'll miss)

Great job by Business Improvement District and Chamber of Commerce as well as their partners AFD, APD and our DPW.

 St. Brigid's would love to see this crowd on Sunday

Birdie the 2nd had a blast.

 Caught in the act by Kevin Collins