WILLIAMSTOWN -- Roughly 30 residents attended a "community listening session" Monday night, aimed at collecting input for the future of Water Street's old town garage site.
"This is very important ground work for what we hope will happen down the road at this site," consultant Connie Kruger told attendees.
The 1.3-acre site at 59 Water St. was home to the town's garage until 1997, and the building was demolished in 2003.
The site has been voted as surplus property by Town Meeting, and environmental remediation has been conducted at the site.
This fall, the Affordable Housing Committee (AHC) chose two consultants to run community meetings for Water Street and PhoTech, another brownfield site on Cole Avenue. Kruger, of Amherst, and Jennifer Goldson, of Boston, teamed up to run the sessions and ultimately create requests for proposals (RFPs) which would be sent to potential affordable housing developers.
Monday's event introduced attendees to the concept of affordable housing, which is funded partially through a government subsidy and features a use restriction.
The evening culminated when attendees met in small discussion groups -- leaders who were chosen randomly to represent their groups reported common wants and desires from participants.
Recurring thoughts were a preference toward mixed-use buildings on the site, with commercial space on the first floor and two to three stories of residential.
"There was a concerned expressed about the mounting buildup of traffic on Water Street," group leader Charles Fox said.
In addition, Fox said his group discussed how developing the site would affect parking -- the lot is utilized throughout the day by Williams College students and for various other purposes.
Group leader Stanley Parese, of the Affordable Housing Trust, reported his group also discussed parking. In addition, the small acreage limits development, he said.
"We concluded it's a challenging site, and we're not sure it can accomplish everything we'd like to see," Parese said.
Parese and other group leaders stated residents would like to see any property on the site to be well-landscaped, with pedestrian and bicycle connections from Water Street to Spring Street, and modern green-building development.
A second session to collect input on the PhoTech site is scheduled for 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10, in the Williamstown Elementary School auditorium.
Kruger told attendees she and Goldson will meet with the AHC on Oct. 23 to go over the information collected. Both she and Goldson will then create RFPs for both sites to be issued to developers. A draft RFP would be brought to the committee in November, she said, and a final would be issued to developers by December.
"It could be two to four years, if everything went exactly on our schedule, before we actually see something on the site," she said.
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