State grant to aid connection between North Adams neighborhoods, downtown

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NORTH ADAMS — A state grant for $75,000 is going to help the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and the city conduct a study that will find ways to improve connectivity between various neighborhoods and the downtown area.

North Adams was among 23 cities and towns in Massachusetts to receive funding through the state's Urban Agenda grant program.

The grant program is focused on promoting economic vitality in urban neighborhoods "by fostering partnerships that capitalize on local assets and community-driven responses to challenges," according to information provided by Mayor Thomas Bernard's office. These are competitive, one-year grants.

Through the program, North Adams will partner with the NBCC to pay the Berkshire Regional Planing Commission to conduct a study on increasing connectivity between the city's downtown business district and surrounding neighborhoods, including the River Street/Bracewell/UNO area, Bernard told The Eagle.

The resulting downtown circulation plan will try to enhance the designs of the city's connections among neighborhoods and other attractions to promote easier circulation throughout downtown.

Zachary Feury, project coordinator in the North Adams Office of Community Development, said the grant will finance several phases of conceptual designs that would address how pedestrians, bicycle riders and vehicles interact with each other and the various corridors of travel. Things like adding bike paths, narrowing roads, changing parking patterns, or altering speed limits or turn lanes would be considered in some areas.

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Feury described it as an effort to achieve "multi-modal facility enhancement" resulting in more user-friendly connections between residential areas and the downtown area. He expects to see a final report by the end of 2020.

As part of the study, possible funding sources to implement the plan could be identified for future use, Bernard said.

"We want to figure out how we make it easier for folks in that neighborhood to get around downtown, to feel more connected to the community," Bernard said. "We're looking to make it more walkable, more bikeable and more accessible."

Some of the assets the study would examine, Bernard noted, include the need for bike paths, existence or condition of sidewalks and crosswalks, and whether the width of a street is more or less conducive to connectivity and accessibility.

Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy announced the Urban Agenda grants Wednesday, at the Black Market in Roxbury, attended by Bernard and Feury.

"Here in North Adams and the northern Berkshires, we are fortunate to have an incredible partner in the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition," Bernard said in a statement. "I'm excited to work with them on this project that will help to build a stronger and more resilient community for everyone."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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