Water St. revamp underway

Town officials have submitted an application for a state grant to be used for minor renovations to Water Street that include sidewalk replacements and the addition of parking spots. The initiative is part of a plan to integrate Water St. with the rest of downtown Williamstown, to be completed by spring 2010.

The grant application, submitted Sept. 12, would provide funding to “remove, replace and extend the sidewalk on both sides and widen the road to accommodate on-street parking,” said Williamstown Town Manager, Peter Fohlin.

A Massachusetts Public Works Economic Development grant would provide up to $1 million if the project is judged economically beneficial.
Additionally, town officials are considering applying for a federal grant to supplement state funding. “Discussions of federal funding are in the preliminary phase and it would not be available until 2010,” Fohlin said.

The Water Street project is part of the town’s effort to revitalize the site and draw individuals to Cable Mills, a $13 million mixed-income development slated for completion within the year. The Cable Mills project, which will consist of 82 residences, encompasses three historic mill buildings further down the street.
“The changes are being made to improve pedestrian access, provide opportunities for new businesses and enhance the success of existing businesses, and provide additional affordable and market rate housing,” Fohlin said.

The project has three main initiatives. First, it would create a new east sidewalk from the Linear Park Bridge to the end of the Cable Mills parking lot. “Presently it is narrow, degraded, very rough and in some places nonexistent,” Fohlin told The North Adams Transcript.

The second initiative would be to install a sidewalk on the west side of the street, beginning at the corner of Heating Plant Drive. This sidewalk would end beyond Hobson’s Choice restaurant.

Widening the street to allow for on-street parking on both sides would be the third part of the project. This would slow traffic down, making Water St. more pedestrian friendly. Since the street is part of a state highway, Route 43, this aspect of the plan needs approval by MassHighway since by law, there can be no parking on state highways.

Businesses on Water Street will remain open throughout construction. “Water St. businesses will be positively affected by the enhancements to the neighborhood,” said Fohlin. “Their
business will not be interrupted.”