Orange residents invited to select economic development project

  • Jennifer Doherty, one of 10 students pursuing master’s degrees in regional planning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Center for Economic Development, at a farmers market in Orange during a site visit. Doherty and the other students are working with Orange Community Development Director Alec Wade to develop an Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool, which provides an in-depth evaluation of a community’s economic development efforts. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Ten students pursuing master’s degrees in regional planning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Center for Economic Development pose in a group photo with Orange Selectboard Chair Ryan Mailloux, Planning Board Chair Mercedes Clingerman and Community Development Director Alec Wade outside the Orange Armory on Aug. 28, during an initial site visit to Orange. The students are working with Wade to develop an Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool, which provides an in-depth evaluation of a community’s economic development efforts. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/29/2020 3:33:32 PM

ORANGE — Residents have brainstormed projects to improve their town. Now it comes down to a vote.

Orange recently accepted an offer to help prioritize plans through the creation of an Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool, or EDSAT, with the assistance of 10 second-year students pursuing master’s degrees in regional planning at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Eight potential projects were developed as a result of a virtual idea-gathering assembly on Oct. 17 and conversations the students struck up with residents at the town’s farmers’ market. The next step in the participatory budgeting process is for people to review the ideas and vote on their selected project.

Voting is available online through EnergizeOrangeMA.com, the project website, through Saturday, Oct. 31. Residents can also vote in person from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. that day, when the students will host a drop-in voting assembly in the parking lot at 2 South Main St. There will also be the option to vote via phone or the video conferencing platform Zoom from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

One of the graduate students, Jennifer Doherty, said residents have been very interested in improving their town, “which is really good to see.” This project’s title is “Energizing Orange’s Economy: Economic Development in the Friendly Town.”

Doherty, 34, said a couple of the brainstormed ideas include improving the downtown outdoor dining area and creating a Parks and Recreation Department for the town. (The town currently has a Parks and Public Spaces Department overseen by Colin Killay.)

The dining area — which was set up after Polly Bixby and her partner, Karen Grzesik, thought up a way for people to support eateries with limited indoor seating due to COVID-19 restrictions — could be made permanent or have a playground added. Doherty also mentioned the town could experiment with a one-year pilot program for a Parks and Recreation Department and a director for it.

Other ideas, Doherty said, are a feasibility study on how to convert Butterfield School into housing or mixed use, with housing and some commercial spaces, and beautifying a small lot at 13 East Main St., which is between two buildings.

The Regional Planning Studio at UMass is working with Orange to develop the EDSAT through the university’s Center for Economic Development and Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.

Comments or questions are also accepted in a voicemail box at 978-633-5377 and via email at energizeorangema@gmail.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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