Students Take a Fresh Look at Hudson
KIMBALL – Students from UMass Amherst Graduate Level Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning program were back in Hudson on Tuesday night to reveal the results of their study of the town and highlight recommendations from their final report set to be released in two weeks.
In addition to spending time in Athol, they hosted two brainstorming sessions in October and November allowing residents to weigh in on what they feel the town needs. Through those meetings and their research of town documents and plans, they have gained a feel for the town and what the people want. This all has fed into their revitalization plan for Athol.
“What frames Hudson is a sense of place,” said Brendan Conrow, UMass Grad Student.
The students made recommendations in terms of what should be done within a year, what should be done within two to three years, and what should be done in five or more years.
The first thing to do within the next year, according to the students, is to change the light industrial zone of downtown to be industrial and commercial to allow other types of businesses to open there.
The next suggestion was to reestablish the town’s 1997 color palette which is still featured on some of the town buildings. The palette was originally laid out in the 1997 guidelines but recent painting of Main Street business fronts has strayed from the set colors that can still be seen on the Starrett building.
Also, the students felt that more public art highlighting the town’s good things such as the River Rat Race, would help people driving through town want to come back again.
The students said they also discovered that a large demand for different types of businesses is not being met in the downtown area. They also noticed that the demand for liquor stores is overly met and that market has been saturated.
The recommendations for the two to three year range were a little more advanced. The students noted that the wide width of parts of Exchange Street could be decreased to add more parking and even a bike lane. They suggested subtracting a parking lane away from Main Street to add a bike lane as well.
This met some opposition from those in attendance who feel that parking is already scarce enough on Main Street and the narrowness of the street is already small enough without adding in a bike path.
Another suggestion is building a “Maker Space” and Satellite College in one of the large empty buildings in town and the students suggested the casket factory building on Main Street due to its large space. This would allow residents to take classes closer to home, the Maker Space would be workshop space for individuals or creators to do work in a large space that they may not have at home or in a current business space.
The five year plus recommendation plan laid out even more ideas for downtown. The most groundbreaking idea would be allowing a medical marijuana growing operation to open in one of the old large factory buildings.
Another larger project proposed by the students was unearthing the brook that runs underneath the Lord Pond Plaza and adding some green space. They discovered most of the parking in the large lot is underutilized. They also suggested adding other businesses in new buildings into the plaza, possibly housing buildings.
In the land that was once the Cass Toy Factory, the students suggested cleaning remaining rubble from the 2012 fire and building a park beside the Millers River. On the park grounds would be a pavilion for gatherings, a recreation area, playground and a connection to the proposed Greenway bike path.
Athol Town Manager, Shaun Suhoski, was pleased with the student’s presentation. “The fact that you’re taking a fresh look at this is great,” he said to the students.
“I think these students had many great ideas. They have done a lot of research,” said Suhoski. He also said all of this information will help greatly with the work on the new master plan being developed to make further progress in the downtown area.
The full report of students’ project and ideas will be published in two weeks according to UMass Assistant Professor Darrel Ramsey-Musolf. It can either be downloaded from the UMass Amherst Website and will be available on the town’s website as well.
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