Amherst Select Board mulls bandstand on common

  • The Amherst Business Improvement District wants to fund construction of this bandstand on the town common. This rendering shows the proposed structure at night. Kuhn Riddle Architects

  • The Amherst Business Improvement District wants to fund construction of this bandstand on the town common. This rendering shows the proposed structure during the daytime. Kuhn Riddle Architects

Staff Writer
Friday, November 24, 2017

AMHERST — A new structure that could be used for live performances on the Town Common appears to have support from members of the Select Board, though a formal endorsement of its construction has not yet been made.

In the first public unveiling of the bandstand that would be built by the Amherst Business Improvement District, Select Board members Monday appeared receptive to the idea of having the structure go up at the eastern edge near Boltwood Avenue and the Lord Jeffery Inn.

But board member Alisa Brewer said the project needs to be thoroughly vetted so residents can weigh in with support or opposition. “We are going to get a lot of flak for putting something on the common,” Brewer said.

Board member Andrew Steinberg agreed, noting that he worries many haven’t yet heard of the concept and that the board would be robbing the public of input if it agreed to construction of the bandstand.

BID Executive Director Sarah la Cour said the project would be privately financed to provide a performance venue to the community. It was inspired by drawings and references from famed landscape architect to Frederick Law Olmstead in 1874 that show a proposed bandstand in the same vicinity.

“So the BID, when we got thinking about this, we thought that location was ideal, the land form is ideal for it,” la Cour said.

La Cour added that it would enhance existing events that use the common, such as the Taste of Amherst and the Amherst Rotary Community Fair.

John Kuhn, a senior principal with Kuhn Riddle Architects and a member of the BID’s board, said it would be appropriate and well used.

About a year in planning, the designs show a bandstand that is modern and doesn’t try to fit in with nearby historic buildings, like the inn, Amherst College dormitories and Grace Episcopal Church.

“Our goal was to create something very simple, very contemporary,” Kuhn said.

The design is open on both the front and back sides, with a base measuring 18 feet by 24 feet.

“It’s essentially a roof with two stanchions on either side, and a base reinforced with concrete and steel,” Kuhn said.

He estimates it would cost about $200,000 to build.

Select Board member Constance Kruger said she likes the location and its look, though she described the roof as having a “flying nun” look.

Brewer said she can appreciate the bandstand’s simplicity, comparing it to a circa 1970 bus stop at the University of Massachusetts.

Whether the concerns from the public will play out is unknown. In 1991, the Amherst Rotary Club offered to design and build a $20,000 steel and masonry bandstand at no cost to the town, but the Select Board rejected the offer following an advisory Town Meeting article.

The only other building that had been on the common was the Chamber of Commerce information booth, which was installed in the 1960s and removed in 2014.

Other board action

Meantime, the Select Board gave the go-ahead for the BID to adopt the center of the new roundabout at the intersection of East Pleasant and Triangle streets.

The decision will allow the organization to do ongoing maintenance and have seasonal plantings.

“You’re the best entity to do this,” Kruger said.

The BID will also install the first wayfinding signs in the roundabout, behind a low stone wall.

These signs, which will measure 6 feet wide by 3 feet tall, will welcome visitors to downtown and direct them to the commercial district. They have been in the planning stages for more than two years.

The Select Board also set the stage for installation of four signs that will identify the cultural district’s boundaries.

“Finding locations for them has been a challenge,” said Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

Three locations are private property, including on South Pleasant, Main and Amity streets.

The only public location is at Realignment Park at the corner of North Pleasant and Hallock streets, near the Hope the Cow statue.

La Cour said the signs need to be visible so people know they are entering the district.

Before the signs can be put in place, they will have to be approved by several committees, including the Local Historic District Commission, the Design Review Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Public Art Commission and the Select Board.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.