Town Receives $130K for Town Center Shared Streets

Barriers in preparation for the beginning of downtown pandemic outdoor dining. Photo: Ann Tweedy/BID

Source: amherstma.gov

The Town of Amherst received a grant of $129,427 from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) as part of the Shared Streets and Spaces Program  to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, expand outdoor dining space and the outdoor dining period, promote bus ridership, and create a more inviting streetscape – all in downtown Amherst. Specifically, the grant money will be used for the purchase of outdoor heaters for restaurants, new downcast street lights to better illuminate pedestrians, two new heated bus shelters, accessibility improvements to curb ramps, handwashing stations, planters and plants, and picnic tables for the North Commons.  

As part of efforts to enhance outdoor dining, the Town will be adjusting North and South Pleasant Streets to accommodate bike lanes and expanded outdoor dining space. The right turn lane on the southbound side of North Pleasant Street will be removed and all lanes will be moved westward to create more space for a bike lane and dining on the eastern side of North Pleasant Street.

While outdoor dining in the street will need to be removed prior to the first major snowstorm, the goal of this project is to extend the outdoor dining season as long as possible by providing heaters and to make it as safe as possible by providing more space and handwashing stations. In Spring 2021, the Town hopes to be well equipped to again provide outdoor dining space in the public right-of-way.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman stated, “Town Planning and Public Works staff have worked with the Amherst Business Improvement District (BID) and Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce to develop creative new options that will sustain our local businesses this fall and next spring. These changes have the potential to make a permanent improvement to the streetscape in our Downtown.” 

This grant builds on previous efforts the Town has taken to accommodate and support outdoor dining in the Downtown and around town. Early in June, the Town mobilized quickly to place jersey barriers along North and South Pleasant Streets to carve out room for outdoor dining in the parking spaces. Also in June, the Town and BID received a $10,000 grant from the Solomon Foundation to purchase umbrellas, plants, and paint the jersey barriers in an effort to liven up this area. Since then, outdoor dining areas were set up along Main Street and Amity Street to support restaurants in these areas and the Town placed tables in the Boltwood Garage, Cushman Common, and North Common to provide places for people to eat and gather outside. 

The Town will continue to be proactive and responsive to re-opening efforts consistent with the Governor’s orders.  

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