Letter: Where Will We Park This Saturday Night?


The town parking lot behind CVS was rezoned in December 2021 to enable the construction of a parking garage there. Photo: Art Keene

Last Saturday night was a fine time to be in the center of town, a Saturday night in May, with good spring weather.  The University’s exams were over and the two colleges were winding down, but everyone was still here. Restaurants were up and running, and with some added choices – Garcia’s had recently opened, and 30 Boltwood had just reopened after its Covid-19 shutdown.  Bars were hopping, and people were crisscrossing North Pleasant Street to get from their dinners to their after-dinner drinks. Entertainment was plentiful.  Amherst Cinema had films showing on all four screens.  And Amherst’s brand new performance venue, the Drake, opened its doors at 7:00 and welcomed patrons for the music that began at 8:00.

Yes, a really good evening to be in Amherst for food, drinks, entertainment, and simply good friendship.  Parking meters had been turned off for the night so parking was free if you could find a spot.  Just too bad that it was so crowded that there was no place to park your car.   But wait!  There was plenty of parking in the center of town after all. 

The town’s lot on North Prospect Street was 80% empty, with 55 spaces just waiting to be used.  A parking lot convenient to all those busy attractions was almost empty.

This is the lot where some business people pleaded for a zoning change so a parking garage could be built there.  No matter that this garage would be constructed on a narrow street with beautiful old houses within an historic district.   No matter that an expensive parking consultant’s report said there was no parking problem in Amherst, maybe just a problem of missing signage. We were told that on a busy Saturday night just like last Saturday, that garage would be a town necessity. Just you wait and see, they said.

Well, we waited and we saw.  And now we know that our parking consultant was right:  Scrap the garage idea, just invest in a few legible directional signs, and the drivers will be fine.  So will the businesses, the residents on North Prospect Street, and all the rest of us who think the center of Amherst is a fine place to be on a warm Saturday evening.

Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal lives on Sunset Avenue in Amherst.  He was Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals and of the former Development and Industrial Commission, and was a member of the Select Committee on Goals for Amherst.

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