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Downtown Adams Receives Local Rapid Recovery Planning Grant

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — Downtown Adams has received a Local Rapid Recovery Planning Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to create an implementation plan to stabilize and revitalize the downtown area.
The business and development group announced Wednesday that the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission will utilize the $60,000 grant to develop a report identifying several projects that can respond to the effects of COVID-19 on the local community and business.
"I think all of us have suffered in the last year," Stephen Stenson, owner of the Mausert Block and Downtown Adams member said. "We hope this process brings hope and activity to the downtown area. So yes we are excited to have technical assistance to put together a vision of an active downtown.  I think by supporting local businesses and increasing potential jobs will help build-on Adams as a great place to live."
Stenson said out of the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts, 125 grants were awarded. Downtown Adams was the lead applicant with the support of ProAdams and the town of Adams. All three local entities will partner in the planning process.
"It was a very fast process as it is for immediate assistance," he said. "We had about seven days to put it all together."
The downtown group identified three short-term goals in its application:
1. Bring back downtown activities to rebuild community spirit 
2. Stabilize existing businesses and current economic activity
3. Increase business startups in the downtown area. 
The study area is bounded by Summer Street, Center Street, Park Street and Hoosac Street.
"But anecdotally, downtown has suffered several closures, about 5 to 10 percent, in addition to the drastically reduced revenue for most businesses," Stenson said. "This is critical as the vacancy rate is close to 50 percent and comes off from the retail apocalypse that has occurred over the past 15 years.  Twenty years ago, vacancies on Park Street were rare. This is an opportunity for the Adams community to envision what the downtown should look like after the retail apocalypse and COVID." 
The first step is to create an assessment of needs and catalog the impacts of COVID-19 among local businesses and the community. Starting in March, the various groups will gather to identify and catalog areas of concern and potential projects to be implemented.  A database of the local businesses has already been created and will be used to reach out to determine their needs.
Stenson said data collection will start next week with surveys of local businesses completed by the end of March.
More than 10 projects are expected to come forward over the next two to four months.
"The projects can be really flexible and targets the needs of the community rather than a pre-set plan," he said. "The key to the projects is that they can be implemented quickly this year at the local level."
The Mausert Block will act as a hub of sorts for the project. Stenson said the plan is to broadcast virtual meetings and set up display areas. 
The meetings will be available on Facebook Live and be taped and broadcast by Northern Berkshire Community Television.
Once COVID-19 gathering restrictions are lifted, he hopes folks will be able to meet in the large commercial space for in-person meetings.
"Everyone's input is essential and the community assistance and volunteerism necessary for this to be a success," he said. "It's a ground-up plan rather than top down. This is why we will be using all possible channels, including social media and display areas, to try to get as much broad participation from the community as possible. The downtown group's focus is obviously on jobs and businesses, but other organization's input is essential to create as broad a blueprint as possible."
In April and May, the wider community will be asked to incorporate its ideas and concerns. These will be worked through with the consultant team to determine several project recommendations and complete the study by August 2021. Recommendations will be implemented in the latter part of 2021.
Downtown Adams member Heather Cachat added that although the grant is purely for technical assistance, there may be an opportunity to capture funds to put the plan into action. 
"This phase will set us up with the right data and a plan that can be actionable and enticing for grants and investment," she said. "The state has said at the end of this process ... we will be in a place where we are able to and likely receive actual physical funds to implement our plans. This is a huge step for our little town of Adams. I personally am extremely excited to be involved and can't wait to see what positive effects we can have on this community."
Interested volunteers can contact the group on the Facebook page or join the Facebook group,

Tags: business development,   state grant,   

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