The Town of Amherst and the Amherst Business Improvement District (BID) received a $10,000 grant from the Lawrence & Lillian Solomon Foundation to purchase materials to make the downtown more comfortable and accessible. Town and BID staff worked together to identify needs, talk with businesses, and apply for the grant – all to encourage safe and vibrant outdoor economic activity downtown consistent with COVID-19 social distancing practices and the Governor’s Phase 2 re-opening protocols.
“While these are very difficult times for our small businesses, we appreciate the support from the Solomon Foundation to explore creative and sustainable ways to continue to offer comfortable and attractive enjoyment of a meal safely outdoors. These small changes may help us envision a future downtown that will create more life on our sidewalks,” said Paul Bockelman, Amherst’s Town Manager.
Gabrielle Gould, Executive Director of the BID added, “As we continue to work with and strengthen our relationship and collaboration with the Town, we are thrilled to see our first joint grant application come to success. This is the time to use our joint resources and get creative with ways to bring Amherst into a new normal. Our goal is to make Amherst in itself a destination for our community and visitors from around the world. The small businesses, the beautiful green spaces, and our historic architecture are what make Amherst unique. Together, we can rebuild and sustain a thriving downtown and enter a post-COVID world better than we were before. We look forward to working together to recreate and build on our solid foundation. We look forward to being a destination that happens to be flanked by three of the best higher education entities in the US.”
Allison Burson, Program Manager for the Solomon Foundation, added “We are heartened to see the resiliency, creativity, and thoughtful planning as the Amherst community comes together to pilot a longstanding vision from the Town and business community: reinvigorating the downtown streetscape with wider, safer sidewalks and upgraded street furnishings to calm traffic, improve safety, and create a more vibrant downtown and stronger sense of place. We commend Amherst’s attention to detail, early response, and holistic approach, modeling ways to make it safe to work, walk, bike, shop, and dine outside, all while complying with all ADA accessibility requirements.”
The grant is specifically focused on outdoor furnishings - such as umbrellas, planters, and plants – to make these new, temporary outdoor dining spaces more attractive, comfortable, and welcoming for customers. The grant money will be matched by the Downtown Amherst Foundation, which the BID created this year as a downtown arts and culture development foundation.
Many Town departments are working together on this effort. The Department of Public Works has been setting up barriers and signage along North Pleasant, South Pleasant, and Amity Streets, and has placed tables in Boltwood Garage and Cushman Common. The Inspections Department, consistent with Temporary Zoning Article 14 passed as an emergency measure on June 15 by the Town Council, has been working on expedited review for businesses seeking to expand outdoor dining and retail. The Planning Department is coordinating these efforts and secured the grant funding. The Health, Police, and Fire Departments all reviewed and approved these plans. Meanwhile, the Business Improvement District, led by Gabrielle Gould, has been doing outreach to downtown businesses to identify their needs to be able to reopen safely and has also painted the barriers.
The Town of Amherst will continue to be proactive and responsive to re-opening efforts consistent with the Governor’s orders.
Contact: Christine Brestrup, Planning Director, 413-259-314, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Gabrielle Gould, Executive Director, Amherst BID, 508-901-1180, email@example.com