NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Two years ago, a group of community activists launched a fund drive to transform historic Eagle Street.
The NAMAzing Eagle Street Project revamped a sad park with art and plantings, created a mobile pocket park that in turn inspired a weekly coffee gathering, and installed signage to mark the unique nature of the short span.
Now it's Ashland Street's turn.
"The project would kind of enhance the opportunity for people coming down and beautify the area," said Amanda Chilson, a team leader, in the project's introductory video.
The roadway doesn't have quite the same historical cachet as Eagle Street but it is an important connector between downtown North Adams and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. It's also connects to the Housing Authority developments and the Clark Biscuit apartment building and two commercial plazas, and contains the post office and one of the city's few distinctive mid-century commercial buildings.
"After the exciting and highly successful work of the NAMAzing Eagle Street Initiative over the past two years, the NAMAzing Initiative, in partnership with O+ North Adams and friends from the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, are launching a brand new (but connected) initiative to continue improving our downtown corridor," reads the initiative's release on the new project.
This place-making project will "activate" the stretch from MCLA to Main Street through the use of murals, art, bike racks, benches, trees, rain-activated sidewalk art and more to make it a more vibrant and user-friendly corridor into the downtown community.
O+ North Adams, a music, arts and wellness festival being planned for May 10-11, will be participating in creating the mural. The initiative will also participate in the tree-planting program being offered to residents and businesses this year.
"From my perspective, improving bikeability is a really big objective of this project," says Christopher Hantman, coordinator of civic engagement and volunteer programs at MCLA, in the video. "Having bike racks throughout Ashland Street will encourage students when they're taking their bike rides from the college to downtown to stop at one of the stores on the way."
Leaders of the Ashland Street Initiative Team with Chilson, coordinator for the state's Mass in Motion program, are Benjamin Lamb, a city councilor who spearheaded the Eagle Street project; Bret Beattie of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and tree program coordinator; and Jessica Sweeney, creative director of the Common Folk Artist Collective and director of the Roots Teen Center.
The fund drive will follow the same path as the last project: the group has to raise $12,500 by May 30 to receive a matching grant from MassDevelopment. Patronicity is again on board as the crowdfunding platform.
The Eagle Street fund drive topped its goal two weeks ahead of schedule by $10,000, allowing the group to expand the artistic elements of the street. Organizers are hoping the same level interest occurs for Ashland Street.
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