"Not eating chard. That's what all those weirdos eat at their stupid picnics on the Hungry Ghost lawn." -Nina

August 21, 2007

United Bank Delares The Public 'Persona Non Grata'

The United Bank branch on the corner of Main and Old South St. has a nice patio that abuts their facade on Old South St, and they have recently hung two new 'No Trespassing' signs there. The area of sidewalk that the patio now occupies, and which is private property, once legally belonged to the public. The public became the legal owners of that slice of property when the City of Northampton took that section by eminent domain. Northamptonist has requested clarification via the Mayor's Office on exactly why and when the city did that, but we believe it was done during the reconstruction of Crafts Ave. and Old South St., making them into one way streets.

When the space that United Bank now occupies held a cafe a few years back, the respected and loved Fire and Water Cafe, the city transfered the 'surplus' land to the building owner for a fee of $2,000, so that Fire and Water could level the area, build it out, and put tables there, adding al fresco service to their business. We are unsure who paid for the land and/or the build out of the sidewalk. Whether it was Fire and Water, or the building owner. And we're not yet sure if the property owner the city eventually relinquished the property to for a one time fee of $2,000, was the owner prior to the eminent domain taking many years ago.

If the property owner was indeed the previous owner, it seems as though this was a fair and equitable exchange, and I applaud the city for following through on the transfer. However, if that wasn't the ownership scenario, this seems likely one of the best real estate deals the current property owner has ever been involved in.

That piece of property, and the numerous times it has changed status from public to private property makes for an intriguing public interest story. Northamptonist would advocate that it revert back into the public domain, and a nice sitting/patio area be area made for the enjoyment of the public. Some flowers, a nice bench or two, and maybe a bit of astroturf. Now that would be a nice gesture from City Hall in light of the major loss of public space that is going to occur at Pulaski Park when the Hotel finally gets built, and by default, turns Pulaski Park into the Hotel's very own welcome mat.

LABELS: downtown public space