Controversial UMass Workers’ Pavilion Project Placed On Hold

Architect's rendering of the interior of the proposed pavilion at UMass intended to honor service workers. Photo:

UMass has indicated that it will pause its controversial proposal to construct a pavilion to honor the efforts of the university’s front line workers during the pandemic.  The pavilion, was to have been constructed in the meadow adjacent to the Arthur F. Kinney Center For Renaissance Studies on East Pleasant Street, and was to have been financed by a $7 million gift from an anonymous donor.  The project met with considerable resistance from abutters, conservationists, friends of Janet Dakin, the donor of the property on which the Kinney Center is located, and the general public.  

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski shared the following statement with the press on January 30. “The extraordinary spirit of generosity of our anonymous donor reflects a desire to both honor service workers who played an immense role in sustaining UMass Amherst during the pandemic, and to create an inspiring, contemplative space in harmony with its surroundings. The planned site off East Pleasant Street for the UMass Service Workers Pavilion has been the topic of recent public discussion, and we recognize the concerns raised by neighbors and other community members. No construction work has begun, and the university believes it is wise at this time to pause and also consider other, alternative sites for the project.”

Robin Jaffin, an organizer of community resistance to the project wrote in an email to people who had mobilized in opposition in response to the UMass announcement:  “I cannot thank you all enough for joining together to help make this happen as I believe this decision is in direct response to all of our efforts,”

Among the objections to the proposed pavilion were.

  • Service workers were not consulted on a project meant to honor them and the site was not convenient for the workers the building is meant to honor. The $7 million project appears to be an ironic honor given the fiscal struggles currently faced by many of the campus’ frontline workers.
  • The construction of the pavilion and a parking lot to serve it would adversely modify the now unencumbered view of the western hills leading down into the agricultural fields. The property currently protects one of the largest remaining open green spaces in Amherst. Possible removal of trees and vegetation is a concern.
  • The remote location and open design of the pavilion will make it a magnet for vandalism.
  • The university has a responsibility to the public to be transparent about large gifts that it receives and conditions specified by them. In the case of the pavilion, it is not clear whether the primary intent is to build this particular structure or to honor service workers. The conditions of the gift need to be made public. 

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