Downtown Amherst green space eyed for small retail development

By Jason Hawk -



The last green lot in downtown Amherst could soon disappear to make way for more businesses.

Used a handful of times each year during festivals, the vacant city-owned space on Church Street (across from the Amherst Cinema and Brew Kettle) is being targeted for retail development.

City council president John Dietrich called Monday for the Community Improvement Corporation, a board including officials and business owners, to market the space to potential investors.

The CIC would act in an exploratory capacity, wooing small businesses to find what Dietrich characterized as the right fit for the historical downtown district.

Were council to directly seek proposals from developers, it would be legally required to accept the lowest, most responsible bid — just like with any official contract.

By turning over the job to the CIC, it can sidestep those requirements, which law director Tony Pecora can be “bureaucratic.”

It wouldn’t get the last say in how the green space is developed, however. Council would still have to accept or reject any recommendations the CIC makes.

Amherst treasurer Richard Ramsey, who sits on the CIC, said council has other work to do on the property. The parcels are tied to the municipal parking lot and need to be divided and improved to a marketable condition.

Main Street Amherst director Teresa Gilles previously said she envisions the space as first-floor shops that draw walking traffic, with apartments on the second floor.

The Community Improvement Corporation was created in 2003 but has seldom been used.

Among its achievements is the transformation of the former Rich’s Auto Body building on Park Avenue, which is now home to LifeCare Ambulance, Discount EMS Supplies, and Arabica Coffee Bistro.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.


By Jason Hawk