ADAMS -- Town Hall hosted a lively discussion on the town's development plans Tuesday night, a mere month before officials will apply for Community Development Block Grant backing to help see some of these projects come to fruition.
Attended by more than 30 people -- business owners, members of various town boards, taxpayers and others -- the meeting examined around 20 large and small projects targeted by the Community Development Department.
Of note, a Park Street improvement -- this year's focal project, how to get things moving at the Topia Arts Center, renovation plans under evaluation for Russell Park and continuation of downtown housing rehabilitation were discussed.
"The key is to find a way to make people stop in this community," Conservation Commission member Joseph Nowicki said early in a meeting, a comment that characterized what followed.
Red Carpet owner George Haddad came out strongly for the Park Street project as perhaps a key to the rest.
"I think that this project is so important," he said. "It's an upgrade that will give us a new look."
The hottest topic of the meeting was Park Street's Topia Arts Center, a former theater the town and others want to see revived.
Mara Woolley, a center board member, told the room there still exists "a very strong group of people working towards Topia" but that "we're at the point where we need more money."
A campaign to inform the public was advocated by many, including Bill Kolis, the new owner of Park Street's Firehouse Cafe, and Town Administrator Jonathan Butler.
"It's low-hanging fruit," Kolis said. " ... Once people understand what's going on and what the benefits are, it becomes a no-brainer."
A revitalized center, he pointed out, could foster an arts community in Adams, drawing tourism, artist collaborators and a creative outlet for area students.
Public funds cannot be used to subsidize such a project, however, so grants must be sought. Butler and Director of Community Development Donna Cesan said the center must organize consistent programming if its board members wish to better their chances of being awarded money to renovate the 160-seat theater.
Butler said the town was willing to do everything from offer grant writing assistance to provide daylong liquor licenses for events -- he suggested a weekend "battle of the bands" -- but the center "needs to demonstrate a history of programming."
"It has to start at the grassroots level and get broad community support," Butler said. "We need to build a track record of things happening there."
Discussion was also had on a project to see a new parking lot on Kearns Lane; the Greylock Glen project; planned extensions of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail -- with one from Hoosac to Lime Street set to begin in April; proposed reuse plans for Adams Memorial School; and Russell Park.
Of the latter, the Parks Commission desires a $100,000 renovation. The park is eligible for certain state grants, since open space and recreation plans for the site were updated last year.
"I would certainly hope to get something in this year," Cesan said.
The town puts in its 2013 Community Development Block Grant application Feb. 15, an application process that goes through the state for the federal funds. It will seek $900,000, the majority of which would go toward a new roadway, sidewalks and other practical and visual improvements to Park Street, while the remainder would continue a successful housing rehabilitation program by taking on another 10 units.
A public hearing on the town's application is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 6:30 p.m.
To reach Phil Demers, email