Greenfield’s ‘Deliberate Downtown’ panel shares master plan successes, vision for future

  • Bill Baker, president of the Greenfield Business Association and owner of Baker Office Supply, speaks during the “Deliberate Downtown: Growing by Design” panel discussion at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The “Deliberate Downtown: Growing by Design” panel discussion at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Michelle Barthelemy, chair of the Business and Information Technology Department at Greenfield Community College, speaks during the “Deliberate Downtown: Growing by Design” panel discussion at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Jeff Sauser, co-founder of Greenspace CoWork, speaks during the “Deliberate Downtown: Growing by Design” panel discussion at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Jeff Sauser, co-founder of Greenspace CoWork, speaks during the “Deliberate Downtown: Growing by Design” panel discussion at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center on Thursday night in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 3/2/2020 5:35:10 PM

GREENFIELD — When the Planning Board finalized its master plan in 2014, it was with the idea that “the downtown was the engine,” Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said.

The city’s downtown, she said, is “the thing that makes Greenfield wonderful, and it has a role to play in housing, transportation, every aspect of Greenfield.”

On Thursday, the Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee — which was tasked with implementing the master plan after the Planning Board’s work was complete — was joined by local business owners, elected officials and artists in sharing progress on the master plan over the last five years and ideas for the future during “Deliberate Downtown: Growing by Design.”

Wedegartner, who spoke about her previous role on the Planning Board, said much like the title of the event, held at the Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, the master plan was “very deliberate.”

“This celebration of the five-year mark is a testimony to that plan, not just the master plan, but the plan to make sure it was a living document,” she explained. “We still have a lot to do. The implementation section is in the back so we’ve got several more years, five, that we can spend looking at the other things.”

Following Wedegartner’s speech, the panelists introduced themselves and spoke about their respective positions in Greenfield, and audience members were able to ask questions.

Greenfield Business Association President and Baker Office Supply owner Bill Baker spoke about both of his “hats.” He read the association’s mission statement and spoke to the group’s intentions before sharing his views on downtown as a business owner.

“As an organization, we’re trying to foster and build our whole community because if we want to move forward, we have to move forward the business community, the residential community, the arts and entertainment community, and city government,” Baker explained. “We all need to focus and come together to energize downtown.”

Jeff Sauser, co-founder of Greenspace CoWork, said he is impressed that a master plan could inspire so many people to come to an event. Sauser said he also works as an urban planner, and through each of his “lenses” — professional, personal and business — he finds a few factors important to downtown.

“It’s fundamentally to attract and retain talent, workforce development, families and creatives,” Sauser said. “As Roxann said, downtown is the engine that drives these things. It’s not the only thing that contributes, but it’s a huge factor. We have a great downtown. Also in combination with the quality downtown, we need to foster entrepreneurship and creativity, and leverage some of the built-in advantages we have here.”

Owner of Greenfield Gallery and co-organizer of the Progress Partnership, Rachael Katz, spoke about The Hive makerspace, set to open at 156 Main St. in spring of 2021, and its potential.

“As a makerspace it’s completely open. You can make whatever you dream of. We’re going to have the high-tech stuff, we’re going to serve as a pipeline for local businesses, we’ll be interfacing with the high schools to get training for people, we’ll work with theater people,” Katz said. “Really across the board when you add that into this emerging ecosystem we have here ... now you’ve got all the pieces.”

Chair of the Business and Information Technology Department at Greenfield Community College, Michelle Barthelemy, emphasized that the college’s success spells success for Greenfield.

“When we came up with the ideation center, the intent was not to work in a silo but to bring everyone in the community together to support young entrepreneurs who are coming out of GCC,” Barthelemy explained. “The ideation center, the entrepreneurship center, the cafe lab — this is not just the student space, this is all your space, and we hope to see you there.”

Co-creator of Greenfield’s Downtown Neighborhood Association and City Council Vice President Otis Wheeler said he’s worked to create change aligning with the master plan, including voting for a new library and proposing changes to zoning.

“(The Downtown Neighborhood Association) has tried to act as a booster for the downtown to organize cleanups,” Wheeler said. “My feeling about downtown is that one of the things that needs to happen in order to make this place thrive is we need to grow the population a little bit. We need to provide not only the affordable housing that is needed, but also housing of all types. People are being priced out of Amherst and Northampton, and if we can capture some of that demand, we can make a downtown that really thrives.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.




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