The Daily Hampshire Gazette, May 12, 2005
Since Smith College’s founding in 1871 the college has been proud to call Northampton home. Smith is vitally enriched by its partnership with the city of Northampton and the community of families, businesses and organizations that make the Pioneer Valley the unique, culturally and intellectually compelling place that it is.
Every organization needs to evolve to meet changing demands, and Smith is no exception. World-class science and engineering programs for women are central to our mission, and we are moving forward with plans to break ground in 2007 for an engineering and molecular sciences building along Belmont Avenue. The location, in proximity to the core of our campus, reflects the liberal arts context in which our students and faculty study science and pursue research. Ultimately, over the course of some decades, we envision in the West Street area a science complex that will include at least one additional building.
This expansion represents a significant change -- and opportunity -- for Smith and for Northampton. Because college-owned rental housing units will be removed for this development, and because affordable housing is a pressing issue in Northampton, the college has stepped forward with several significant housing commitments. In addition to providing support and financial assistance to the affected tenants -- including the opportunity to relocate to comparable housing -- we have pledged assistance to replace the rental housing stock that will be lost in the city. This is a major undertaking, and we have begun the process with a $3 million affordable housing subsidy. To spur the process, Smith has made available its property at 36 Bedford Terrace -- a prime Northampton location -- for apartment development.
In the years ahead, as the businesses in the area of the science complex are affected by Smith’s expansion plans, we are committed to working with them on a case-by-case basis regarding relocation. On the matter of taxes, it is our expectation that the new housing units will replace lost tax revenue. If they do not, we will discuss this issue with the mayor.
We recognize the growing importance of the West Street corridor as one of Northampton’s gateways and we know it is important that Smith’s future buildings fit well into their surroundings. (Although I am proud, on balance, of the architecture and landscape that Smith has brought to Northampton, I will be among the first to acknowledge that not all Smith buildings over the years have been embraced.) As we construct buildings in the new science complex, we are committed to design principles that are sensitive to context, that result in “green” (environmentally responsible) buildings, and that present attractive views to the outside world.
In planning for this next chapter in our history, we have already benefited from the discussions of a working group appointed by the mayor, in which residents, business owners, college representatives, and city officials participated. A public planning workshop, scheduled for May 21, will provide another occasion for collective thinking about shared interests in the future development of the West Street corridor. We look forward to participating actively in this process.
In so many ways -- civic, cultural, economic, and educational, to name just a few -- the life of Smith and its city are deeply intertwined. I am confident that in the years ahead, when the current chapter in Smith-Northampton relations is assessed, all parties -- residents, the city, and the college -- will be proud of the way they strengthened their partnership by working cooperatively toward solutions that serve the best long-range interests of all of us who care so deeply about this city.
Carol T. Christ is president of Smith College.