Columnist Gabrielle Gould: ‘OK, we can talk about parking, but then ...’

  • Fall brings a lot of fun things to do in downtown Amherst. gazette file photo/KEVIN GUTTING

Thursday, October 24, 2019

In just less than two months at the Amherst Business Improvement District, I have had the opportunity and honor of meeting so many people in and around the Amherst area.

I have met with 12 of our 13 Amherst Town Council members, the town manager and town department heads, heads of the colleges and departments within, directors of Amherst’s remarkable cultural, arts and historic organizations, as well as several of the nonprofit organizations that service the Amherst area. I have also met with local artists, teachers, professors, first responders, retirees, stay-at-home parents, entrepreneurs, and, of course, have worked my way around downtown to meet with individual business owners.

A good number of these people are born and raised (and often multigenerational) Amherst residents but equally as many are transplants — like me — whose stories of how they arrived here mirror my family’s. People move here for a better quality of life, for a great public school system, for the beauty, the diversity, the sense of community and for the offerings that only a cultural college town can give.

I have listened intently to residents, the work force and visitors to learn more about the community I am a part of. It did not take more than a week in my position as executive director of the downtown Amherst BID to start conversations with, “OK, we can talk about parking for 10 minutes, but then I want to talk about bringing more arts, culture, and beauty to our downtown!”

But it doesn’t stop there. We talk about parking a lot. Having attended several parking forums, I see that the issue is real and the BID is in the process of creating a pitch for an “out-of-the-box” solution.

Parking is a passionate subject downtown, one that I feel is important to the vitality of our business community and the comfort of our residents. Parking ties into the creation of more programming, services, expanded retail offerings and in maintaining a rewarding downtown experience. This topic is not going away and solutions need to be forthcoming.

What’s great downtown

After discussing parking with whomever I am chatting with, I like to ask about what is great about our downtown and this weekend and coming month the list is long! This is my first fall here and I can honestly say my driving style has changed as I gawk out my window in awe at the changing leaves and scenery. The beauty in this area is unparalleled. We see it in our downtown and the views all around us.

Our own North Common, Sweetser and Kendrick parks are bursting with colors. The storefronts have become fall or spooky Halloween oriented, the displays at Zanna and Clay’s are warm and cozy, The Boltwood fireplace and outdoor fire pits are lit up and warming their guests, the restaurants and bars have switched menus and drinks to a more cool weather style. But for us diehards, ice coffee at our coffee shops and Bart’s Ice Cream are still available. There’s something about an ice cream cone under the orange leaves that sounds really good right now!

Then there are the festivities and the arts. This weekend alone offers a truckload of riches in terms of downtown community gatherings. With both Amherst College and UMass hosting homecoming weekend, the school spirit in the air is palpable. The UMass parade will march through downtown at around 10 a.m. Saturday, with a 450-person marching band led by the same spirited and talented conductor that leads the Amherst Community Band. There will also be parade floats, horse-drawn carriages and the BID Trolley marching through downtown Amherst.

Then on Sunday, it is time for the little humans to shine, growl and howl as LSSE puts on its annual Halloween Costume Parade. LSSE really knows how to get the town in the mood for some tricks and treats!

If you walk around downtown and look at several storefront windows, you will see ghouls, ghosts and goblins painted by our local elementary students. These storefronts will also be part of the pre-parade trick or treating and a treasure hunt around town set up for the kids!

After the parade, there will be a fabulous Haunted House at the Bangs Center in the Boltwood parking area. My own kids have outgrown the trick-or-treat years, so I am pretty excited to be downtown on Sunday giving out candy from our office with my coworkers at the Chamber of Commerce and seeing all the crazy and creative costumes!

When October finally comes to an end and November brings us deeper into fall, our “theme” @AmherstDowntown social media during the month will be gratitude and thankfulness. We invite you to follow along on Facebook and Instagram as we highlight our local business community.

Please join us to celebrate our artists at the Nov. 6 Amherst Center Cultural District fall Arts Night at Bistro 63: A Celebration of the Arts. The following night, Nov. 7, during Amherst’s Arts Walk Night, our BID offices will have live blues music and a new art on the walls! Both events are free.

Also, in case you did not know, the Amherst Farmers Market will run until Nov. 23 this year on the North Common. Supporting your local farmers negates any caloric intake leading up to Thanksgiving (this is tacitly untrue but I tell myself this on a regular basis.)

As sweater weather turns briskly to hat and coat weather, we look forward to seeing you downtown and remind you to Eat Local. Shop Local. Drink Local. Stay Local and Support Local!

Gabrielle Gould is the executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District. Her column appears on the fourth Friday of every month.