Northampton hosts first public forum for Historic Preservation Plan

NORTHAMPTON – Northampton is looking to add a historic preservation plan element to the city’s overall sustainable plan, so Barrett Planning Group hosted the first public forum on Zoom on September 29 to outline the scope of the project.

Barrett Planning Group – the advisory group working with the city – originally presented the scope of this project to the Planning Board in early June.

At the time, Judi Barrett, director of planning, owner and chief operating officer of Barrett Planning, described this project as a “very typical planning approach” which involves an inventory assessment of what Northampton has now and the protection of these resources in the current context of the city. iteration.

“We are also looking at the history of preservation planning in parallel [the Northampton] community and the extent to which this has or has not informed [Northampton’s] existing land use and planning policies,” Barrett said.

According to Carolyn Misch, director of the city’s Office of Planning and Sustainability, Barrett was hired in the spring and will spend a year with the city developing this additional element.

“The early stages of the summer, when people were away, was kind of a data-gathering opportunity for the band,” Misch said. “They spent June in this first phase of data collection, and now we’re sort of entering the second phase, which is public engagement.”

The purpose of this meeting, and other forums in the future, is to find out what people would like to see added to the plan. There will be an open house at the City Council Chambers at 212 Main Street on October 12 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. so people can offer more feedback.

According to Sarah LaValley, Northampton’s Conservation, Preservation and Land Development Manager, conversations about this project began four years ago with the Historic Commission, as the town realized that it had a rich cultural history, a wealth of historic resources, a local historic district, and several national and state historic districts that need to be preserved.

“[Northampton’s] the most recent preservation plan is from the early 1990s…definitely outdated,” LaValley said. “[It] did not help the commission to be proactive and to make decisions. »

“We are looking for a dedicated Historic Preservation Plan item from the Sustainable Northampton [Comprehensive] Plan to be able to assess historically significant buildings, objects and landscapes that are important to the city and its people,” LaValley continued.

Ultimately, this project will result in recommendations from the planning group and an action plan based on the city’s environment as well as its cultural and natural landscapes.

“Another principle of preservation planning for planners is to understand what you have that is historically significant, that is part of your cultural identity,” Barrett said. “It’s also understanding that communities evolve and change.”

Northampton inventory

According to Kathy Broomer, architectural historian and preservation consultant for Barrett, Northampton began inspecting its historic properties almost 50 years ago. During this period, over 1,700 individual resources and areas have been inventoried so far, with data based on the age, appearance and history of the resource, as well as photographs.

“Northampton’s inventory is not limited to buildings,” Broomer said. “There are neighborhoods, bridges, cemeteries, dams and reservoirs, statues and fountains…there are education and health complexes, and even the Tri-County Fairgrounds has been recorded in the city inventory.”

“The inventory serves as the basis for preservation planning decisions, but is also of great value as a record of Northampton’s history for both information and public education purposes,” said continued Broomer.
Despite this extensive inventory, Broomer said further surveys were needed to fill in the gaps for parks and landscapes, mill villages, agricultural areas and subdivisions after World War II. “Many historically and architecturally significant properties have yet to be included in the inventory due to time and budget constraints of previous survey projects,” Broomer said. “Other items in the inventory may have been demolished or significantly altered since they were first investigated, which is another reason the city inventory should be updated regularly.”

According to Broomer, nearly 500 Northampton resources have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, either individually or as part of a historic district. The Smith College Alumni Gymnasium and Downtown Historic District were Northampton’s first of four listings on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

The most recent listing was earlier this year when the old Clarke School campus was added.

“Most nationally registered properties in Northampton are considered locally significant,” Broomer said.

Some, however, are considered to be of state significance, such as the State Hospital Campus, Miss Florence Diner, the Dorsey-Jones House, and the Veterans Administration Hospital Campus.

The Barrett Planning Group will continue to facilitate this information, and the October 12 Open House will be a good opportunity for the public to provide input on how the Historic Preservation Plan element could be used as an important facet of community.

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