Residents cite housing as top priority for downtown Greenfield

  • Pedestrians cross Main Street in downtown Greenfield. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2021 5:53:08 PM

GREENFIELD — Residents who attended Thursday evening’s virtual Local Rapid Recovery Plan public forum spoke primarily to the emphasis they hope the city places on housing as they look to the future of downtown Greenfield.

“My top priority for the town is housing in the upper floors of the downtown properties,” resident Becca King told the Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee at its meeting, during which a public hearing was held on the Local Rapid Recovery Plan.

Greenfield was one of six Franklin County communities to receive one of the state-issued Local Rapid Recovery Plan Program grants in March.

Community and Economic Development Director MJ Adams previously said the city received a grant for $90,000 worth of consulting from Peg Beranger, of FinePoint Associates in Brookline, to determine the city’s priorities and which efforts should be taken to help small businesses downtown.

From that process, 12 recommendations were brought forward to the community for consideration.

Those recommendations include: create a pedestrian plaza at Court Square in front of City Hall; develop a marketing initiative for downtown; implement a request for a proposal process to solicit developer interest in the First National Bank building; explore the use of the Urban Center Housing Tax Increment Financing to encourage residential development in the upper floors of downtown properties; develop a parking benefit district; develop a business director/community information kiosk; complete a 100% Corner Demonstration Project with multiple improvements, including streetscape elements, murals, banners and improved storefronts; create a storefront and sign improvement program; implement a wayfinding system; install additional streetscape elements; and revise and implement bylaw regulations to encourage a variety of downtown signs.

Adams explained Thursday evening that two of those recommendations are already actively being discussed — one in relation to the sign bylaws, which the Planning Board is looking into modifying, and another in relation to the city’s sign and facade program.

“We’re looking to research to see if there are easier, more streamlined ways to provide some incentives to downtown property owners and store owners to be able to make upgrades to that first-level floor retail space that isn’t so cumbersome and feeds the flavor or what our downtown Main Street will feel like,” Adams said.

As part of Thursday’s public hearing, Adams asked participants to prioritize the recommendations in a series of poll questions. She noted that the city had already received upwards of 35 emails of written feedback on the list.

Respondents seemed to identify residential development in upper levels of downtown as their first priority; creating marketing initiatives and an organization focused on downtown programs were respondents’ top second priorities; and finding a use for the First National Bank building and pedestrianizing Court Square were among respondents’ third top priorities.

Resident Pamela Goodwin echoed King’s comments on prioritizing housing. She also spoke to the need for providing public toilets.

“There actually is a conversation on the Portland Loo,” Adams responded, referencing a style of prefabricated public restroom. “It is expensive, but it is in the mix of the conversation.”

Resident Nancy Hazard said she also considers housing to be an “absolute first priority.” She also started a discussion on Court Square and the ongoing pilot program to reconfigure it as a pedestrian plaza.

“I wondered whether there had been consideration of compromised designs, not an all or nothing kind-of-thing,” she noted.

One suggestion Hazard offered was to open Court Square on the weekends and leave it closed during the week.

Adams said that by nature, “a pilot project is going to be clunky” and that the idea is to keep the pilot until early November, at which point the barriers will come down and planters will be put away.

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback for the Court Square project,” she said. “We will take the feedback and comments people have made and see how we move this forward, and whether or not we move it forward, and to what extent we move it forward.”

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




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