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Highlighting arts and culture to strengthen the regional draw of the downtown of a New England college town

CivicMoxie was contracted through the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development’s MA Downtown Initiative Program to work with the City of Amherst to support the ongoing work of the BID, Chamber of Commerce, and Town and include utilizing public spaces and art as part of a larger effort to strengthen Amherst’s brand as a cultural destination for residents, visitors, and students.

The City of Amherst is located in Hampshire County in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. The city is just under 28 square miles. In the 1700’s the land in and around Amherst was mostly agricultural; following the opening of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Amherst College in the 1800’s, education grew to be a large component of Amherst’s economy, eventually becoming the largest source of employment. The focus area is a portion of the Amherst Business Improvement District that has traditional New England main street character with pedestrian-scale streetscape features that are largely in very good condition, including multi-level street lighting, street trees, and seating, and sufficiently wide sidewalks.

Continuing and expanding regional marketing with other organizations, such as the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, along with encouraging a more diverse range of businesses, will broaden the district’s customer base. The BID has strong leadership and the affiliated Downtown Amherst Foundation is promoting projects and programming that support arts, culture, and community as quality of life and economic drivers in the city. CivicMoxie’s work included consideration of the planned opening of The Drake, a performance and music venue (now open) as a key destination downtown. Support for continued business recruitment and retention and an interesting business mix is provided in the form of projects that provide a business buddy program for new entrepreneurs, a feedback mechanism for the Town to hear how its efforts to be more business-friendly are going, and a recommendation for new Town hire(s) to support economic development and diversity. Currently, there is no Town economic development staff person, and the BID has taken on the role of championing business support in town, pursuing and obtaining an impressive portfolio of grants to support business survival, pandemic recovery, and growth.

Project type:

Arts and culture, community revitalization, corridor / main streets, downtown / district plan, placemaking, urban design

Rapid Recovery Program: Amherst, MA

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)

City of Amherst, MA


October 2021

Project Type:
Arts and culture, community revitalization, corridor / main streets, downtown / district plan, placemaking, urban design

Project Team:
CivicMoxie (lead)

Amherst Business Improvement District

City of Amherst

Subject Matter Experts: Dodson & Flinker (zoning) and Stantec (parking)

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