Elizabeth Vierling: Amherst development

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

It is hard for me to believe that there are people who support an Amherst downtown dominated by what are essentially five-story, expensive dormitories owned by out-of-town real estate conglomerates. That is what is proposed for a new five-story building in downtown.

I do not ask that we build a quaint little town with buildings looking like they came from the 19th century — I am not against modern, interesting buildings — I am against ugliness, lack of streetscape, lack of green space, lack of community space and pretending downtown residents — students or not — don’t require parking. (There is already the complaint that visitors can’t find parking — and a fight over eliminating parking spaces in the Amherst Common —- look at internet reviews on Kendrick place — lack of parking, lack of parking, lack of parking).

I ask that we build a town that provides amenities to permanent town residents and attracts tourists coming to western Massachusetts. I understand that since students might live here nine months that they are technically “permanent,” but they are transient — a big difference. It seems that the Amherst town vision is to have dorms from One East Pleasant through to Kendrick Place, and then not much different as far as making the adjacent limited business district into more student apartments. This is what I find objectionable.

It is also ironic that Amherst is blocking off part of the street for outdoor dining, and then not creating that kind of space with future design — after COVID I guess no one will want to eat outside again? Show me community space, green space and help for small businesses, amenities worth visiting. Then I think we will actually be talking about 21st century design and smart growth — regardless of whether the building designs are “modern,” “retro” or whatever. I regret that as a molecular biologist I cannot offer solutions, but I just can’t believe that this is the only route for Amherst development. It is a very sad day if it is.

Elizabeth Vierling