Study looks to re-envision Sunderland center
|Published: 09-14-2023 1:59 PM
SUNDERLAND — With an eye toward re-envisioning the center of Sunderland, the town has awarded a consultation contract to engineering firm Stantec to help create a plan.
The Selectboard on Monday authorized spending up to $50,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to work with Stantec, a worldwide engineering company with an office in Northampton, following a recommendation from the Village Center Committee, which was created in 2019.
Village Center Committee Chair Lorin Starr said they’ve been awaiting funding for a study — the pandemic and a separate village center study also contributed to delays — and they are “very much looking forward” to working with Stantec and residents on developing a vision for the town.
“The focus is really on enhancing the character and amenities in the village center, and giving the people in town the opportunity to participate in the discussion about what we’d like to see,” Starr said, adding that the Village Center Committee expects to consider increasing pedestrian safety and ways to help businesses develop.
The town underwent a similar study when an agency assigned through a state grant program in 2021 worked to develop a rapid recovery plan following the pandemic. In that process, Sunderland worked with OverUnder, a Boston-based architecture firm, to consider project and development ideas around the town center. The study found there was a lack of “definition” in the middle of town. The intersection of Routes 116 and 47 also raised safety concerns.
“[OverUnder was] able to address some of the things we were looking at,” Starr said, noting the purpose of that study was different than the one the town is embarking on now. “This is really the thing we’ve been wanting to focus on; the reason the committee was established.”
As it prepares to engage residents in this process, Starr said Sunderland is at a sort of “crossroads” because there are so many directions they could go with this study.
“We have so much going for us. We have a lot of walkability, we have good amenities in the center of town,” she said. “I think it’s important we all go into this open-minded.”
While no official timeline is set, Starr expects the town will make “significant progress within the year.”
“It really is a way to assess what people want, and partially to be able to illustrate what the potential is,” Starr explained. “I think that’s an important part, to really give people something concrete to reflect upon.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4081.