Goal: To create a pedestrian friendly environment that is attractive to businesses and will preserve the historical character of the town center.
Charlemont's town center was designated as a National Historic District in 1985 through the National Register of Historic Places. Charlemont has a traditional, well-defined town center that could be used as a basis for economic and recreational development, further historic preservation and revitalization, and to provide more varied forms of housing in a compact, rural setting (Background Document). While limited development has occurred within and outside of the town center, Charlemont has retained the compact urban form that largely developed in past centuries. This commercial district contains several stores including Avery's General Store, the Charlemont Inn, two gas stations, the Post Office, the Town Hall, Hawlemont School, and the town's fire department. In addition to the various mixed uses found within the town center, several elements combine to give the town center a strong identity.
Town centers have traditionally been the focal point for the community in small rural towns. In Charlemont, it assumes greater significance because it has the potential to bring together the three disjointed parts of the town - Zoar Village, the village center, and East Charlemont. A vibrant town center can be a place of community pride, where people assemble for commercial and social activities. As a prerequisite to an active town center, it should be oriented to pedestrian traffic and also provide adequate and convenient parking. In Charlemont, concentrating commercial activities in the town center will enable the town to utilize the existing infrastructure to its best potential and lower the demand on valuable open space outside the town center. Re-use of existing structures will reduce development costs, preserve the unique character of the town center and enhance property values in and around it. On its part, the town must make the required infrastructure improvements, facilitate diversified commercial development and refurbish the town center to make it a more attractive place to locate businesses.
Objective 1: To make town center an attractive location for businesses and to promote diversity in commercial activities.
1.1 Identify areas for intense commercial activities and acquire additional parking. A compact urban form exists in the town center, and creating smaller lot sizes and reducing setback requirements should maintain it. Existing buildings should be renovated and multiple uses should be allowed to achieve higher density of development. Development of under-utilized parcels should be encouraged for large commercial or light industrial establishments. An active town center provides a walking experience for the visitor and discourages the use of the automobile. The town must identify suitable parcels of land and co-ordinate with private landowners and businesses to develop them for public parking.
Objective 2: Create a visually appealing space for commercial and recreational activities
2.1 Initiate design and aesthetic improvements to building facades and landscape in the town center. A signage system should be prepared that promotes the town center and informs visitors about it while also ensuring the visual compatibility of all signs. This must be complemented with the erection of directional signs at strategic locations, promotional banners on light poles, historical markers on buildings, and the re-painting of buildings.
Objective 3: To encourage development that is consistent with the existing architectural character of the town center.
3.1 Re-examine zoning by-laws pertinent to development in the town center. The core of the town center has been designated as a National Historic District. A Historic Overlay District would be an effective tool to preserve the architectural character and to ensure that future development in the town center will be architecturally compatible with the surrounding buildings. A site plan review process will ensure that the proposed development is consistent with the character and scale of surrounding structures, and that design issues relating to traditional facades, use of traditional building materials, landscape, and parking requirements are adequately addressed. Certain businesses and commercial activities may be permitted by right to encourage re-use of existing buildings.
Objective 4: To increase pedestrian access to the town center for town residents.
4.1: Make improvements to calm traffic on Route 2 in the town center. Heavy trucks and speeding traffic on Route 2 have limited pedestrian movement in the town center. The town must work with Mass Highway Department and other transportation officials at the Franklin Regional Planning Agency to implement traffic calming techniques such as curb extensions and raised crosswalks in the town center. Narrow road markings should be created on Route 2 in the center of town to slow down traffic. Street trees should be planted along Route 2 to create a visual and psychological barrier between the highway and adjoining uses, and to provide cues to motorists by identifying it as "shared space".
4.2. Develop a walking path/greenway from the fairgrounds to the town center. Public and quasi-public open spaces in the town center could be connected by a corridor to enhance activity and pedestrian access to the town center. This corridor would cross numerous private properties. A committee should be formed to investigate the possibility of creating this greenway.