NORTH ADAMS -- A project by 16 Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts students on Saturday showed city residents how Eagle Street could be revitalized into a "better block."
Eagle Street Rising, organized by students in professor Elena Traister's Green Living Seminar, used ideas from the Better Block Project, a group which provides cities around the country with tools to help redevelop communities and revitalize business districts.
"We wanted to show people how we could change things very quickly with little money," junior and organizer Felipe Aedo said.
Aedo and senior Richard Doucette, who served as teaching assistants, said this year's theme of sustainable urban development was chosen by last year's class.
"Our role was to help coordinate everything," Aedo said. "Because this hasn't been done before, we had to organize all the logistics of this big project."
Aedo and Doucette have worked since December contacting business owners, building owners, residents, artists and city departments such as public works and the police.
Doucette said students in the class were split into groups to work on different components of the project, including growing flowers to be placed on the street and organizing live street music.
One of the most popular features of the event were several "parklets" along the street, which turned parking spots into an
"What has happened over the last few decades is that roads have become wider and sidewalks have become narrower," Aedo said. Parklets reclaim recreational space for pedestrians, he explained, and can act as a traffic calming measure.
Another popular component was the One Day Cafe, a "pop-up business" in an empty building at 19 Eagle St., which provided complimentary coffee and pastries for attendees.
"It shows the owners and the community the potential this empty building can have," Aedo said.
By the middle of the event, organizers said they had received many compliments from city residents.
"Everybody's on board, we just needed to show them what it looks like," Doucette said. "It's not easy to think about. So we're taking one day to show people what it would be like."
Other ways the class set out to improve the street included painting an additional crosswalk, adding decorations to lampposts, and creating more comfortable seating.
Passersby were given the chance to provide feedback on ways the downtown could be improved. Comments stressed the need for additional bike lanes, bike racks and the need to address pedestrian safety.
"As a resident, and also as a part of the class, I thought it was a great project," sophomore Monica Conlin said. "The event raised awareness of the lack of shared space here which is a downfall of the town."
Resident Janet Wickersham said she enjoyed the day's events, especially the One Day Cafe.
"It takes me back to the 60s," she said.
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