Success on one North Adams thoroughfare feeds into revitalization of Ashland Street

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NORTH ADAMS — Another downtown street, another goal reached.

The group behind Eagle Street's aesthetic revival scored another victory this week when it surpassed a fundraising goal for beautification efforts on Ashland Street.

The Ashland Street Initiative surpassed the $12,500 benchmark well ahead of its May 30 deadline, raising $14,592 through Thursday morning. In doing so, the effort will receive a matching $12,500 grant from MassDevelopment, the state's economic development agency.

The crowdsourced funding will be applied to a number of improvement projects, including installation of bicycle racks and pedestrian flags to make crossing the street easier, the planting of trees and a new mural.

The Ashland Street Initiative is the second such endeavor by the NAMAzing Initiative, a community-focused volunteer group. In 2017, it raised more than $35,000 for improvements to Eagle Street that have included new business signs, a small mobile "parklet" that takes up two parking spaces and new waste receptacles.

The group's pitch to donors this time around was simple: Ashland Street is a bridge that connects the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to the center of the city's downtown. Along the way, there is a mix of restaurants, apartments and retailers.

"Ashland Street was a natural choice due to the attention it's getting from the city, the development of property along it, its high number of residents of diverse demographics who, in many cases, lack personal vehicles, and its flow and importance as an artery into downtown.

The goal is to help make Ashland Street not only prettier, but more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

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The plans call for the installation of pedestrian flags — which help make walkers more visible as they cross the street — at three points along Ashland Street. There are talks of creating and launching the city's first bike-share program.

Bike racks will be installed at locations after input from businesses, according to Amanda Chilson, Mass in Motion coordinator at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, which is a partner in the effort.

The group also is collaborating with organizers of the O+ Festival — it held its inaugural event this year — to create a mural in 2020.

"Elements of implementation will start this summer in terms of trees, benches and bike/pedestrian-friendly components, with everything — including the O+ 2020 mural — being done and completed by late spring 2020," volunteer Benjamin Lamb said.

As the fundraising deadline approached, success was not guaranteed.

"[I was] not surprised, but definitely relieved. We saw a similar flow with the Eagle Street Initiative where there was a bump at the beginning, some downtime, and then a bump at the end," Lamb said.

Bright Ideas Brewing owner Orion Howard, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, former Attorney General and Drury High School alum Martha Coakley and Adams Community Bank all donated $1,000 or more to the effort.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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