Debra Jacobson: Must our new downtown be ugly?

Friday, November 24, 2017
Must our new downtown be ugly?

We are told to tolerate the glass-and-cement, hulking abominations sprouting like toxic fungi around our downtown because this is the price of progress. Or at least the price of a larger commercial tax base.

Before we accept uncritically this program of turning our downtown into a second-rate Hartford, Connecticut, we should ask whether this is really a viable commercial strategy, or are we giving away what makes our town attractive to residents, students, and business — our New England character.

To be honest, demolishing them, and trying again, would be perfect, but impossible. So “let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.” Perhaps we could ameliorate some of the blight on our visual environment?

I suggest we soften our skyline by adding a little nature to our zoning regulations. Let’s require rooftop gardens on bulky tall buildings downtown. Trees, shrubs, even tomato and basil plants for the Saturday market. Gardens adorn rooftops from Tokyo to Chicago’s City Hall. Let’s bring them home to Amherst.

Instead of selling our architectural soul, let’s integrate our beautiful nature into our downtown. If we must look like someplace else, let it be Brooklyn, not Hartford.

Debra Jacobson