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Deerfield to discuss downtown center’s future

Workshops begin on Thursday

SOUTH DEERFIELD — This week, Deerfield residents and business owners will have a chance to tell town officials and nationally known transportation planners what they want out of their downtown center in the South Deerfield.

Possible visions for the town could include tree-lined sidewalks, clear crosswalks and a local coffee shop. Whatever the town may become, the ultimate goal is to attract travelers from Routes 5 and 10 to Sugarloaf Street and to make the downtown the gateway to Deerfield.

A team of transportation planners and consultants are coming to the town Thursday through Saturday to discuss improvements to the village center as part of the town’s Complete Streets and Downtown Livability Plan. Deerfield residents, local employees, merchants and business owners will be able to participate in a series of interactive public workshops.

“Our goal is to look at what factors of the built-in social and economic environment of Deerfield really can be changed to help improve the livability of the South Deerfield center,” said Jason Schrieber, the principal of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.

Nygaard is the main transportation planner behind the project, along with Doucet & Associates.

Nelson/Nygaard was founded in 1987 and has offices across the United States and a work base that covers five continents. Doucet & Associates offers civil engineering design and consulting, land planning and surveying consultation. It was founded in 1992 in Austin, Texas, expanded to New England with an office in Northampton in 1997. One project Doucet is working on is a redevelopment of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus in Northampton.

Schrieber said the plan is for the community to tell the project planners what they do like and don’t like in the town and how the center can be improved.

“We are interested in hearing from parents on how better kids can interact, from local business owners on how they can benefit by improved downtown access and safety and from landowners whose property values may be impacted by changes,” Schrieber said. “Our goal is to get as much input as possible.”

The public workshops will be held at the town hall at 8 Conway St. At 7 p.m. on Thursday, the community will frame the problems and discuss how to improve South Deerfield. On Friday, from 4 to 8 p.m., residents will discuss solutions and potential changes to the downtown. On Saturday, at noon, the community will focus on final plans. The project partners intend to have a final report by the end of the year.

The project team is also making itself available at the Frontier Community Access Television studio at 8B Elm St., where the public can drop in from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday and Saturday until noon.

Before Thursday, the town also asks residents to fill out a survey on the project. The survey can be found on the town website: www.deerfieldma.us.

In October, the town held a meeting with the volunteer steering committee made up of 24 residents. The committee identified several goals for the downtown, including the promotion of economic development, improved aesthetics, enhanced safety for pedestrians and bicyclists and calming traffic measures.

The hope is to identify low-cost projects that the town can implement within 12 months. These changes could be as simple as sidewalk widening, more trees, or even colored paint on crosswalks.

Deerfield’s Complete Streets project is part of a regionwide project promoting sustainable development. Spearheading the project is the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. Greenfield, Montague and Orange are other local towns working on similar projects that stem from the FRCOG’s plan.

Deerfield’s project goals mirror the COG’s, which are to understand key issues impacting the region and to create a vision for sustainable development and redevelopment to guide future growth; to identify housing, transportation, economic development, energy conservation, natural resource protection, and infrastructure needs and priorities; and to build local and regional capacity and increase collaboration among regional agencies and communities.

Deerfield’s Complete Streets is paid for by a $40,000 federal Housing and Urban Development grant and $20,000 of town funds.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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