March 11: Public Forum to Discuss Planning and Sustainability for Northampton

The Ward Three Neighborhood Association is circulating the following announcement:

The Northampton Design Forum (NDF) is a local citizen group which invited the Notre Dame Urban Design Studio to Northampton last fall. This was
funded entirely by private donations. We have planned a public forum to discuss the intersection of Planning and Sustainability on March 11, 2009 at
7 PM in the Bridge St. School cafeteria. We hope that you will be able to join us then.

The event will have two components. The first is a brief introduction to the report to the public followed by a general discussion of the
intersection of planning and sustainability. This will be moderated by Joel Russell (who is the chair of NDF and a member of the rezoning committee) and will include comments by Wayne Feiden, the Director of the Office of Planning and Development. We will provide copies of the “10 Principles of
Good Neighborhood Design” to stimulate the conversation. There will be ample time for questions and comments.

After a short break Aaron Helfand, a Northampton native who is one of the Notre Dame Urban Design Studio members, will use their schematic proposal for the area now occupied by parking lots along Hampton Ave. and the old Mill River bed as a specific example of the type of creative thinking that could help us imagine how we want our community to be in the future. City Council and NDF member Bob Reckman will moderate this portion of the program. Wayne Feiden will provide some background about the City’s hopes for the old river bed. We expect a substantial discussion after Aaron’s presentation. There are both printed and electronic copies of Envisioning Sustainable Northampton, the book they produced, at Forbes and Lilly Libraries if you want to see the drawings before the forum. We are also attaching a PDF of the relevant sections from the book to this invitation [see image extracted below]. The entire report is available either printed ($40) or in electronic form ($5) from Paradise Copies at 21 Conz St. We will project an image of the plan on a screen at the front and have a printed poster size document as well. It is important to emphasize that the schematic design is simply a vision, not an actual proposal.

You can learn more about the Urban Design Studio at This site describes their visit and includes all the drawings that they produced as a result of a week of intense charrettes here and a semester of drawing.

It is our hope that this forum will provide an opportunity for the members of the public, the Mayor, the City Council, the Planning Board, the
Conservation Commission and the Rezoning Committee to talk about these important issues in a productive and collaborative manner. These groups
rarely have an opportunity to meet in such a setting and talk to one another directly about their visions of our future. The meeting will not last more than 2 hours.

The Ward 3 Neighborhood Association is an enthusiastic cosponsor of the event. Councilor David Narkewicz is also supportive and involved. We plan
to publicize the event widely using the resources and connections of the W3NA and the Design Forum. We are inviting you, members of the City
Council, the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission and the Rezoning Committee individually. We hope that you will be able to join us on March 11. If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Bob Reckman at 413-695-0281.

See [the image below] from Notre Dame Urban Design Studio titled: “AERIAL: Main Street, Pleasant & Conz Neighborhood”.

Cordially yours;

The Northampton Design Forum

See also:

Northampton Design Forum

Envisioning Sustainable Northampton: Notre Dame Urban Design Presentation – Video and Handout

Envisioning Sustainable Northampton: Notre Dame Urban Design Presentation – Slides

Video: First public “in-process” presentation and feedback session for Design Northampton Week
Fran Volkmann, Vice Chair, Community Preservation Committee
We would like to concentrate development closer in, we like the idea of
walkability, bikeability, neighborhood center… The thing that happens
to us, however, is that we buy that and then somebody builds some
horrible thing…and then they say to you, “This is infill, you know.
It’s good, it’s infill.” …You know if you walk in European cities,
you very often find little tiny pocket parks, and little bits of green
spaces, mixed in with beautiful buildings… How do we…learn
to…value…respect for people at the same time that we try to fill in
our park spaces?

Tailoring Infill and the New Urbanism to Northampton
The North Street Neighborhood Association is not opposed to all infill
per se. The “new urbanism” has many appealing features, but three
cautions come to mind.

First, due to Northampton’s chronic
flooding issues, the proportion of impervious surface in a neighborhood
should be closely monitored. A front lawn may not be as “useless” as it
looks, and it can add privacy and quiet to a home. Second, urban heat
island effects should be considered if a neighborhood is at risk of
losing greenspace. Third, any transition from one zoning regime to
another should be gradual, to avoid sudden property tax increases and
to evaluate the effects of the new regime as they unfold, in case
adjustments are needed.

Video and Slides: Final Presentation of Design Northampton Week

The pleasing appearance of the northern portion of Pleasant
Street–built before 1950–is contrasted with southern Pleasant Street: