Tuesday, April 26, 2011



Interest in the Gateway Project is high; today the Club had a number of visitors and guests to hear Todd Diacon, Deputy Chancellor at UMass, discuss the topic.  Joining us were Gordon and Mary Wyse, Peter Kitchell, Rosalie Porter, Anita Page, and Lisa Quinlan and Nancy Buffone from the university.

The Gateway Project proposes to link the university to Amherst with well-designed mixed-use residential/retail development.  It includes two plus acres (formerly frat row) that the university would give to the town, thus enhancing its tax base. The town has already selected a developer for this project and interested residents can participate in a charette at the Bangs Center on April 28, 29, or 30.  Todd Diacon's presentation was informative and clear.  He noted that the University has committed itself to a new strategic plan to join the sixty-three members of the Association of American Universities, the "gold standard" for research institutions.  In the next nine years UMass plans to move from 20,000 to 22,500 undergraduates, with most of the increase coming from out-of-state (thus revenue enhancing) enrollment.  It plans to increase its tenured and tenure-track faculty from 978 to 1200.  Of particular relevance to the Gateway Project is the plan to build a residential honors college, the Commonwealth College, across from the Mullins Center, thus relieving the pressure on undergraduate housing.

Still, it was clear from questions that it was the possibility of undergraduates living in the Gateway area's new housing that was of most concern to area residents.  The speaker noted that the best safeguards against high impact student housing were design and price point and that the developer was keenly aware of this.  A questioner asked if once the property is deeded to the town the University is no longer part of the decision or design process.  This is indeed the case, and in fact the town is pretty much out of it; the decisions will rest with the developer.

The speaker noted that UMass could not imitate Amherst College and keep the property and pay taxes to the town.  The restrictions on public institutions are very different and more difficult than those facing private colleges.

Then a questioner asked about the recent UMass decision to raise its football status and play some games in Foxboro, clearly not a popular decision among some of those present.  Mr. Diacon made the university's case and it was almost entirely financial.  Expenses were going up and it was necessary for revenues to keep pace.   Perhaps not everyone was satisfied with this explanation, but he made it clear that it was a done deal.

We were delighted to welcome Hub Smith and Susie Lowenstein back to the Club.  Isaac ben Ezra noted that he is still living in his home but it is for sale, since he plans to move South (to South Hadley).  He also told us that Amherst Media will be able to stay in its College Street digs for another year.

Vivienne told us that there were five tickets remaining for Thursday's elegant and stylish fashion show at 2:30 at the Munson Library to benefit the Fisher Home and the Hospice Shop.  She also mentioned that she is planning to print copies of her Sunday Musings blog, and that those interested should see her when she returns in mid-June.

Michael Greenebaum, Note-taker