It Began with Boltwood Walk - On October 4, 1971, after years of studies considering the best reuse of a largely abandoned complex of former school buildings in the Boltwood Walk area of downtown Amherst, Amherst Town Meeting voted to establish the Amherst Redevelopment Authority (ARA):
Voted that the Town hereby determines that there exists in this town a need for a redevelopment authority, as that
need is defined in Chapter 121B of the General Laws, for the purpose of engaging in work under said chapter, and
that it is in the public interest that such an authority be organized here; and therefore that there be hereby organized
and established in this town a redevelopment authority under the provisions of Section 4 of said chapter and acts in
amendment thereof and in addition thereto.
The Amherst Redevelopment Authority, like the Amherst Housing Authority, was established by Town Meeting under state law (M.G.L. Chapter 121B), and is not strictly speaking a Town board or committee. The ARA is a separate, quasi-municipal entity that works cooperatively with Amherst Town government for a specific purpose—urban renewal through redevelopment, adaptive reuse and infill development.
While the phrase "in this town" in the original Town Meeting vote extends the ARA's jurisdiction to the entire community, the initial focus of the ARA’s work was in downtown Amherst.
The purpose of redevelopment authorities, acting as urban renewal agencies, is to eliminate and redevelop substandard, decadent or blighted open areas for industrial, commercial, business, residential, recreational, educational, hospital or other purposes. With the goals of revitalizing such land uses and encouraging new growth, redevelopment authorities have the power to:
- Establish rehabilitation and design standards;
- Assemble and dispose of land, including taking of real estate through eminent domain;
- Relocate businesses and residents occupying urban renewal sites;
- Demolish and/or rehabilitate substandard structures;
- Participate in real estate development and commercial revitalization;
- Issue bonds, borrow money and invest funds;
- Receive grants and loans;
- Accept gifts or requests.
In the early 1970s, under the guidance of the ARA and in cooperation with Town government, an urban renewal plan was developed to redevelop the Center School Complex Urban Renewal Project area (Boltwood Walk).
Completion of most of that project took 30 years and included:
- Creation of the Bangs Community Center (adaptive reuse of a middle school);
- Construction of 180 units of affordable elderly, disabled and low income family housing (Ann Whalen Apartments, Clark House);
- Renovation of the Odd Fellows Hall (17 Kellogg Avenue) and Kane's Nursing Home (30 Boltwood Walk); and
- Construction of an extensive system of public walkways, lights, and pocket parks.
- Construction of a parking garage to serve as supportive infrastructure for the project and the surrounding downtown area.
Parking Garage - The 2001 construction of the Boltwood Walk parking garage was the last significant component of this downtown urban renewal project, which will continue to exist until 2013.
The ARA continues to work to identify and assess areas throughout Amherst where urban renewal and redevelopment would be useful tools for the community. For information on upcoming ARA meetings, please click on the "agenda's" link, below, or check the Events Calendar on the Town of Amherst home webpage.
Citizens are encouraged to submit any written ideas, comments, hopes and concerns via email or letter to: Amherst Redevelopment Authority, c/o Conservation and Development, Town Hall, 4 Boltwood Avenue, Amherst, MA 01002, .
Jonathan Tucker, Planning Director
413-259-3040 | Email
Minutes & Agendas
|Jeanne Traester, Gov App
*4 elected members plus 1 Governor's Appointee for 5-year terms
Downtown Amherst – Downtown Amherst remains a priority area for redevelopment, and an area most likely to qualify for creation of new urban renewal projects. Much of downtown Amherst is seriously under-developed.
The Gateway Project
Depot Center & Outlying Villages – The Amherst Redevelopment Authority (ARA) is interested in seeing whether there is a useful role it could play in the redevelopment and revitalization of the Depot Center around the Amherst Depot and in outlying village centers. The Authority will observe and participate in efforts by the Amherst Planning Board to explore new zoning for these important areas.
The Gateway Corridor project is a joint initiative of the Town of Amherst, the Amherst Redevelopment Authority (ARA), and the University of Massachusetts. The Gateway project proposes the redevelopment of an area that includes portions of the north end of the downtown, as well as approximately 1,800 foot stretch of North Pleasant Street. The preliminary concept would expand and extend the northern end of Amherst’s downtown business center to meet the UMass campus, connecting the two with a mixed-use corridor that includes significant targeted housing, diverse private commercial development, parking, and extensive roadway and streetscape improvements.
The Gateway Corridor project seeks to implement important aspects of the Amherst Master Plan by emphasizing infill, redevelopment, and compact mixed use development which takes advantage of existing services within or near Amherst’s centers. Most recent developments are listed immediately below, with the history of community planning for this project described in greater detail further down.
Gateway Corridor Project Update (December 2013)
The July 2011 Final Report on the Gateway Corridor called for a series of nine action steps. Three of these actions were critical to the future of the project, and two of these have recently been completed.
One action step (#4) called for the Town to “conduct [a] ‘potential’ residential market analysis”—i.e., conduct a study of market rate housing, to determine the potential market for non-student residents of a future Gateway Corridor development. The corresponding Housing Market Study, the scope of which was expanded to examine the market rate housing needs of the entire community, can be found on the web page for the Housing and Sheltering Committee. For the Housing Market Study, click here. (Added December 19, 2013)
Another action step (#7) recommended that the Town “study the vehicular and pedestrian traffic impacts of new development on the neighborhoods west of the Planning area”—i.e., project new traffic which would result from development of the Gateway Corridor concept plan as envisioned during the May 2011 3-day community charrette, and assess the potential impacts of that projected future traffic. To accomplish this, the Town of Amherst approached the University of Massachusetts, which was conducting a transportation study in association with its own master plan. UMass agreed to add to its transportation study a projection and analysis of traffic which might be generated by the Gateway Corridor concept plan. To read the final Gateway Transportation Study, click here. To read the Gateway Appendix, click here. (Added December 19, 2013)
A third action step (#6) recommended that the Town “develop a form based code overlay for the project area”—i.e., conduct a new community planning process to develop new zoning for the Gateway Corridor project area. Such an effort could not proceed without the information provided in the previous two steps—the market rate housing and traffic projection studies—and the Town Manager indicated that he would not support any such project prior to completion of these studies. In the meantime, the Amherst Planning Board determined that any Gateway Corridor planning and rezoning effort should include the entire Town Center as well as the Gateway Corridor, which is envisioned as an extension of the center. Since 2011, the Planning Board has focused its center rezoning efforts on North Amherst and Atkins Corners, as well as on housing issues. It is unlikely that a new center rezoning process will begin until projects already underway have been completed.
Gateway Corridor Vision - FINAL REPORT (added July 25, 2011)
Click HERE to view the report! (Note: This is a large file and may take a long time to download)
Following a community visioning workshop conducted on April 28, 29 and 30, 2011, and subsequent review of the results of that workshop, the consulting firm of ACP Visioning & Planning prepared a Draft Final Report on a vision for the Gateway Corridor and recommended Action Steps for the Town and Redevelopment Authority to pursue. To view this draft report, click here (Note: This is a large file and may take a long time to download)
The consultant then presented the draft report for public review and comment at a joint meeting of the Redevelopment Authority and Amherst Planning Board at 7:00 p.m. in the Town Room, Town Hall on Wednesday, June 29.
Gateway Corridor History & Overview (2010-2011)
Research & Preparation
Beginning in spring 2010, the Redevelopment Authority began to meet regularly with regard to this project and to examine similar campus-edge projects in other parts of the country. Over the summer 2010, the Authority and Amherst citizens took field trips to Hanover, New Hampshire, and Mansfield (Storrs), Connecticut to review related projects in those communities.
During this period, the Authority developed some maps and a summary of project intent, as a preliminary way to give the project shape and direction.
Planning Areas Map
On September 1, 2010, representatives of the Amherst Redevelopment Authority, the Town of Amherst (through the efforts of a former Town Manager), and the University of Massachusetts signed the following joint Agreement with respect to the mixed use Gateway Corridor project. To view the Agreement, click here. This Agreement served principally as a non-binding statement of good faith cooperation between the three parties, and its early emphasis on the development of private student housing has since been superseded and the Agreement itself discarded as a guiding policy document for the project.
In fall 2010, Town Manager John Musante asked that the Redevelopment Authority reconsider its process, and instead embark on a process of community planning, beginning with a visioning exercise. The Authority agreed, and developed and requested proposals from consultants to conduct a visioning exercise, develop a series of action steps going forward, and to conduct an urban renewal assessment of the project area identified to date, in order to determine whether the use of the Authority’s urban renewal powers would have a useful role in the project.
A Community Visioning Exercise
Before Amherst could embark on the redevelopment of this area, the community needed to decide how much area the corridor will include, what kinds of uses the corridor should contain, what it should look like, and how it should work. Through the efforts and funding of the Amherst Redevelopment Authority, the Town obtained the services of a consulting team led by ACP Visioning & Planning, Ltd., the same firm which worked with the community on development of the Amherst Master Plan.
The community visioning exercise was conducted by ACP on the evenings of April 28, 29 and 30, 2011, in the Large Activity Room of the Bangs Community Center, and consisted of three parts:
Public Visioning Workshop – Thursday, April 28 (6:00-9:00 p.m.) -– The public workshop consisted of: 1) a public presentation; 2) interactive work at tables in small groups regarding the boundaries of the project area and potential future uses, and 3) presentations of results by participants.
Open House – Friday, April 29 (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) – The Consultant team, Redevelopment Authority members, and Town staff organized the results of the Public Visioning Workshop.
(6:00-9:00 p.m.) -– The Open House was an ongoing participatory event at which ‘pin-up’ presentations of the results of the public visioning workshop and its summary could be viewed, including transportation options and assessment of urban renewal eligibility. Participants interacted with presenters as they reviewed the information presented at each location.
Public Meeting - Saturday, April 30 (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) – The Consultant team, Redevelopment Authority members, and Town staff further refined the public vision based on responses at the Open House.
(6:00-9:00 p.m.) – The Consulting Team presented a draft community vision for the Gateway Corridor project and solicited community feedback.
To view a PowerPoint of the final presentation by ACP from the Visioning sessions on April 27, 28 and 29th, click here.
Note: This is a very large file and takes a while to download - please be patient.
Final Vision & Next Steps
With the first portion of the visioning exercise completed, the Consulting Team worked in May and early June 2011 with Town staff to further refine the Vision and develop Action Steps to take the project forward. The resulting draft Final Report was submitted to the ARA and the Town for internal review and comment. Following receipt of comments and further refinement, in June the Consulting Team presented a Final Vision and Action Plan to a joint public session of the Redevelopment Authority, Planning Board and final public comment was solicited. Based on the responses at this final meeting, the Final Report was developed and submitted by the Consulting Team. It then became the responsibility of the Town and the Redevelopment Authority to determine how to proceed with implementation of the Action Plan for the Gateway Corridor project.