For the past few years, some Amherst Town Councilors have been pushing to have a parking structure built in the historical residential area on North Prospect Street (see e.g. here, here, here and here). The last studies done in 2018 stated that additional parking spaces are not needed. To this day, this is still evident because the town municipal parking lot adjacent to the CVS parking lot, as well as the surrounding street parking are never full. To my knowledge they have never been filled. So, why the big push? Well, you be the judge!
Why was the now under construction 90 unit housing building with retail space on the first floor at 11 East Pleasant Street approved with zero additional parking spaces? And why was the four story, 58 unit housing project at 26 Spring Street also approved with zero additional parking? To make matters worse, the 34 parking spaces at the Main Street municipal parking lot will be eliminated for the North Common project. To me, this seems counterproductive!
Who is approving these outlandish projects? Can they be held accountable to the residents of the Town of Amherst? I wish the Drake much success, billed as the downtown save all, which I congratulate and sincerely hope prospers. Nevertheless, with the opening of the Drake, there has not been a reduction in the number of open parking spots in the North Pleasant Street municipal parking lot or the surrounding street parking spots.
In my opinion, the Town of Amherst should put a high value on the visual appeal of our streets and businesses. Looking around the town, do we see a theme of coordinated beauty? Do the businesses reflect small town ambiance with natural greenery mixed in with the historic buildings? What image do we want to present to the public? If we want to increase visitors, tourists and make Amherst a destination and if we want new, permanent residents and not just students, then we must have an overview of what we want our town to look like. To build a massive five story parking garage next to a 1 story CVS just does not fit the visual appeal of the beautiful historic houses or the Historic Museum of Amherst on North Prospect Street.
It’s time to re-evaluate these pro-garage arguments and actually do some planning for the town that we want.
Jay Silverstein is a resident of Amherst