It’s all about décor and trafficking
By Harry Montgomery
“’Living Room of the Town’—Planners Air Out Proposals to the Community for New Williams Inn,” headlined a September 15 story in the Berkshire Eagle by Christopher Marcisz. Two days earlier, an informational session at the existing Williams Inn at Field Park, with architects and interior designers, provided an update on the College’s project for a new inn at the foot of Spring Street “and fielded questions from the Community.” If this concerned community member had been there, I would have had questions on aspects beyond living room décor.
Reportedly some in the audience “raised a few lingering doubts about the issue of traffic, a major concern that had been raised in the spring” when the College won Town Meeting approval to rezone this Spring Street area for the hotel. Planning, Design and Construction Director Rita Coppola-Wallace acknowledged complications beyond having to move existing structures—somewhere. She said the new Inn’s “exiting traffic will likely go down Latham Street and on to Water Street,” where, she acknowledged, traffic studies have shown some problems. Possible solutions the town may pursue include better marked lanes for right and left turns onto Main Street, or a rotary at the intersection like the one added in Manchester, VT.
James Kolesar, assistant to President Falk for community and government affairs, added, “There is also discussion about extending Walden Street to South Street, where it could help move traffic back to Main Street better than Hoxsey Street could.” Talk of a Walden Street extension to South Street raises red flags on South Street and well beyond. I have no transcripts from last spring’s town meetings, but I do remember expressions of concern, followed by assurances, including at Zoning Board meetings, that this idea was no part of the College’s plan for the new Inn.
Five months after the Town Meeting, a new Inn on Spring Street remains a work in progress rather than a fait accompli. Community input still appears welcome. No doubt it’s not only Christmas season when the town does need room at and for the Inn. But, taking another look, wouldn’t it be more reasonable—and less disruptive—to rebuild a new Williams Inn at its present location at Field Park, a traditional entrance to the town both for north-south traffic on Route 7, and east-west traffic on Route 2?
Without knowing details of town history, I think the Treadway Inn corporation made a well-calculated move when, in the early 1970s, they accepted this crossroads site in a swap with the College for their old Inn (now Dodd House), which was on a semi-cul de sac we now call Mission Park Drive. The durability of their choice has again been validated by its pedestrian proximity both to the much expanded Clark Art Institute and to the College’s up-graded 62 Center Theatre. I’m no reader of signs and portents, but this discussion does recall the College’s last big proposal for the foot of Spring Street: the aborted siting there of the new 62 Center, which now so comfortably replaces the Adams Memorial Theatre where it belongs, on Main Street.