Published: 09/24/2021 5:53:08 PM
GREENFIELD – Local residents who attended the local Rapid Recovery Plan’s virtual public forum Thursday night primarily spoke about the emphasis they hope the city will put on housing as they look to the future of downtown Greenfield.
“My top priority for the city is housing on the upper floors of downtown buildings,” local resident Becca King told the Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee at its meeting that held a public hearing on the Local Rapid Recovery Plan.
Greenfield was one of six communities in Franklin County to receive a state grant from the Local Rapid Recovery Plan Program in March.
Community and Economic Development director MJ Adams previously said the city received a $ 90,000 grant from FinePoint Associates, Brookline’s Peg Beranger, for advice to help determine the city’s priorities and efforts should to help small businesses in the city center.
From this process, 12 recommendations were submitted to the community for review.
These recommendations include: creating a pedestrianized street in Court Square in front of City Hall; develop a marketing initiative for the inner city; apply for a proposal process to arouse the interest of developers in the Erste National Bank building; Investigate the use of housing tax hike financing in the urban center to promote residential development on the upper floors of inner-city properties; Development of a park advantage district; develop a business director / community information kiosk; complete a 100% corner demonstration project with several enhancements including street art, murals, banners and improved storefronts; Create a window and sign improvement program; implement a routing system; install additional street picture elements; and revising and implementing statutes to promote a variety of signs in the city center.
Adams said Thursday evening that two of these recommendations are already being actively discussed – one related to the signing statute, which the planning authority is considering changing, and another related to the city’s signage and facade program.
“We’re investigating whether there are simpler and more streamlined ways to give downtown property owners and shopkeepers some incentives so that they can improve the first floor retail space that isn’t that cumbersome and feeds the taste or how our Main Street is in downtown will feel, “said Adams.
During Thursday’s public hearing, Adams asked attendees to prioritize the recommendations on a series of poll questions. She noted that the city had already received more than 35 emails with written feedback on the list.
Respondents appeared to have upper-story downtown residential development as their first priority; Creating marketing initiatives and an organization focused on downtown programs were the respondents’ second top priorities; and finding a use for the First National Bank building and Court Square pedestrian mall was a top third priority for respondents.
Resident Pamela Goodwin echoed King’s comments on prioritizing housing. She also spoke of the need to provide public toilets.
“There’s actually a conversation going on in the Portland loo,” replied Adams, referring to a type of pre-built public toilet. “It’s expensive, but it’s in the mix of the conversation.”
Resident Nancy Hazard said she also sees housing as “an absolute first priority”. She also started a discussion on Court Square and the ongoing pilot program to turn it into a pedestrian mall.
“I was wondering if compromised designs were being considered, not an all-or-nothing thing,” she noted.
One suggestion from Hazard was to open Court Square on the weekends and keep it closed during the week.
Adams said that “a pilot will be inherently clunky” and that the idea is to keep the pilot until early November, then the barriers will fall and the planters will be put away.
“We got a lot of feedback on the Court Square project,” she said. “We’re going to take the feedback and comments from people and see how we are moving this forward and whether we are moving it or not and how far we are moving it.”
Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne