Criticism continues against Court Square reconfiguration in Greenfield

  • A car drives through the new traffic pattern after Court Square in Greenfield was blocked to traffic to make way for a pedestrian plaza. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Court Square in Greenfield, pictured on Friday. Staff Photo/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Court Square in Greenfield, pictured on Friday. Staff Photo/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Court Square in Greenfield, pictured on Friday. Staff Photo/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2021 4:41:17 PM

GREENFIELD — Residents continue to speak out against the Court Square reconfiguration project.

The project — which originally came forward in 2017 with a goal of creating more open space around the Greenfield Common — involves closing Court Square to vehicular traffic to make way for a pedestrian plaza, city officials have previously explained.

A pilot project, or “test drive” of the concept, kicked off in June and is expected to continue through early November.

“It’s been very helpful having this testing period to see how the reconfigured space would function,” resident Sandy Thomas said during the public comment portion of Wednesday night’s City Council meeting. “I’ve driven by many different times — mornings, afternoons and evenings — through all the times it’s been blocked off. Rarely, if ever, have I witnessed a lot of people sitting at tables and chairs.”

Thomas said there isn’t enough activity downtown to draw foot traffic.

“If the goal was to bring people there, there has to be a steady drumbeat of something engaging and exciting to do,” she noted. “And there really just isn’t.”

Thomas added that she is, however, in favor of closing off Court Square for short-term activities — something that has already proved successful in the past.

Resident Pamela Goodwin also told councilors she is opposed to closing Court Square on a permanent basis.

“I truly support the farmers’ market and any other activities that are temporary,” she said.

Doug Clarke, a member of the Church Council at the neighboring Second Congregational Church, echoed many of Thomas’ remarks. The church, he said, has long since been a downtown church “actively supporting” people from all walks of life.

“It now feels as though we are a church closed off from the common, with unattractive jersey barriers at the end of Court Square and a very tight corner to turn to Bank Row to get to the church,” he said. “Second (Congregational) Church has remained closed for Sunday worship due to COVID concerns for now, so we’ve not yet fully experienced the Sunday morning experience of 60 to 90 people arriving to worship.”

Clarke noted that he’s already expressed concerns for the handicap parking spaces that were lost at the front entrance of the church. Access to the church and nearby businesses, he said, has been made “more difficult.”

“We share your desire for an attractive, welcoming downtown,” he said. “We believe a thriving and easily accessible church on the common is a benefit to any community, and urge you to reconsider the proposal to close off Court Square.”

He added that on a personal level, he feels housing should be the community’s first priority.

“Given all the needs of our community,” Clarke said, “we question how making the common bigger grows to such prominence.”

A petition to reverse the Court Square project appeared before councilors earlier this month at a Committee Chairs meeting. A public hearing on the petition is scheduled to take place during the Appointments and Ordinances Committee meeting on Oct. 5, after which it will be considered by the full City Council on Oct. 20.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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