Bandshell plans get final approval for Amherst Town Common

  • This band shell design for the Common by Naomi Darling/Ray Mann Architects was selected by the Amherst BID.  CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2021

AMHERST — An 1874 design for the Town Common by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted depicted what he termed a “music house” on the expanse of greenery.

Nearly 150 years later, the Common, long used for community events where live music is played, will be getting a permanent performance shell.

The Town Council voted 13-0 Monday to grant final approval to the project pitched by the Amherst Business Improvement District and funded by the Downtown Amherst Foundation. The approval, following a similar unanimous recommendation from the Town Services and Outreach Committee, means this element of the BID’s Destination Amherst initiative can get underway.

“The BID and DAF truly believe that bringing more arts and culture to our community and ensuring accessibility for performers and audience members alike is invaluable in terms of economic development, diversity building and community growth and support,” Amherst BID Executive Director Gabrielle Gould wrote in an email.

The structure will be situated near the Inn on Boltwood, with the stage facing South Pleasant Street.

Groundbreaking for the performance shell and its grand opening are both likely to happen in 2023, Gould said. The BID’s current focus is on finishing construction of The Drake venue on North Pleasant Street. Before the performance shell is built, a feasibility study for a capital campaign will take place and discussions will be held with Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

The performance shell design, by Naomi Darling/Ray Mann Architects of Amherst, was selected in a 2018 competition. Made from engineered timber and 38 feet wide and 24 feet deep, the building would use what is known as origami folded-plate structure architectural techniques.

Designs show a cantilevered roof that appears to be made from a single folded piece of paper, like origami. A rainwater garden would be formed around the base of the band shell.

Councilors supported the project following unanimous recommendations from the Disability Access Advisory Committee, the Historical Commission the Design Review Board.

The vote allows the town to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the BID for maintenance and management, ensuring that costs of upkeep and oversight are not paid by the town.