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South Deerfield sets goals for downtown

Beautiful, safe village center tops wish list

SOUTH DEERFIELD — As Yankee Candle shoppers travel Routes 5 and 10, tree-lined sidewalks, clear crosswalks, bicycle lanes and a coffee shop bring them toward Sugarloaf Street in the downtown center of South Deerfield.

The village, where train tracks do not serve as speed bumps and the Cumberland Farms gas station is not the focal point of a four-way intersection, serves as the gateway to the town.

This utopian view is what 24 South Deerfield residents dream and hope to turn into a reality. These residents make up a steering committee that will work with a national transportation planning firm, Nelson Nygaard, who the town hired to help make the village center more pedestrian and driver friendly.

The project — called South Deerfield Complete Streets and Downtown Livability Plan — is part of the Franklin Regional Council of Government’s plan for sustainable development, which includes a compilation of countywide goals. It is paid for by a $40,000 federal Housing and Urban Development grant and $20,000 of town funds. Nelson Nygaard completed a similar project on Route 9 in Northampton.

South Deerfield’s goal is traffic calming — a new focus on pedestrian safety and accessibility and a better connection between two commercial areas. The hope is to have changes implemented within 12 months. These changes could be as simple as sidewalk widening, more trees, or even colored paint on crosswalks.

Some of the issues Nygaard observed include missing curb cuts and crosswalks, sidewalk gaps and the lack of aesthetics like trees and pedestrian lighting.

The common theme on the wish list of residents include is sidewalk safety, economic development and an attractive center.

“I want to make sure the downtown is safe for people and our downtown stays viable,” said Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness, who is also on the committee.

Library Trustee and school crossing guard Sharyn Paciorek said she wants to see the village become the gateway to Deerfield.

“What will we do to bring people off Routes 5 and 10?” she asked.

Deerfield Elementary School teacher Lori Roche said, “There is always overflow at the Yankee Candle parking area. No one comes here.”

Karen Michaelowski, an interior designer, said the town needs more green space and beautification.

“We need a lot less pavement,” she commented.

Frank Moro of Fisher’s Garage on Sugarloaf Street said he hopes to see a reason for people to come into town.

“It’s a shortcut to UMass in a lot of cases,” Moro said. “People come into the garage and go to town and they’re back in five minutes. There is nothing to do.”

Max Hartshorne used to run the former cafe on Sugarloaf Street for five years before it closed. He wants economic development and perhaps a bike lane.

“There’s no bike lane. The other day I rode the sidewalk,” Hartshorne said.

The other area the consultants reminded residents to consider is the former Oxford pickle factory property. One possible option is to transform the 150,000-square-foot site to a mixed-use site with 72,450 square feet of retail space, 38,000 square feet for office space and 30 condominiums.

Though the decision is in the hands of residents, the engineering firm did have three alternatives.

The first option is the cheapest at $200,000. It includes sidewalk construction or reconstruction, more crosswalks and streetscape designs.

For $650,000, the second option would include more expansive streetscape and roadway improvements.

For $850,000, the third option includes the work involved in the first two options. It adds brickwork, a pedestrian walkway on Park Street, road narrowing on Sugarloaf and North Main Streets and a gateway on Sugarloaf Street.

The three prices are cost estimates.

The next step is a community charrette, which includes a walking audit, community workshops and focus group meetings. The public meeting will take place Nov. 15 through 17.

The project deadline is June.

Kathleen McKiernan can be reached at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com

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