The strategic plan for North Adams revealed earlier this month by the Partnership for North Adams (NAP) is certainly ambitious, and finding sources of funding for the long haul will be challenging. There is no point in thinking small, however, and the plan's many elements give residents plenty to rally behind.
At its essence, the plan is the kind of private-public partnership that has succeeded in other communities. Progress in the early phases should generate interest and funding to fuel progress in the later phases, boosting the downtown core to the ultimate benefit of the rest of the city.
Among the elements in Phase 1 are the repositioning of Heritage State Park into Greylock Market, moving the Historical Society and Hoosac Tunnel museums to a more prominent spot and using shared commercial space to better connect Mass MoCA to downtown. MoCA is one of the city's strengths, and finding ways to link it to other tourist attractions and retailers will benefit all parties. North Adams' compact downtown is already walkable, but adding green spaces as proposed in the plan will bring more residents and visitors there by making it more attractive.
NAP, which was commissioned with private funds and worked with a consulting firm and an architectural firm to create the plan, has put together a $1.5 million package from 18 investors for the Greylock Market project. The city will need to win grants and find revenue sources to fund other elements, which include a downtown housing project and unspecified work at the Route 2 entrance bridge and the corner of Main and Marshall Streets.
Perhaps anticipating skepticism, John DeRosa, a member of the NAP Board of Directors, said at a City Hall press conference that "This is not a plan we intend to keep on the shelf." Unfortunately, ambitious development plans too often end up collecting dust on shelves in communities everywhere. The strategic plan for North Adams has too much potential to meet that fate, and while carrying it out will not be easy and obstacles will inevitably emerge, the dividends to be paid along the way should benefit the city considerably for decades to come.