Amherst College on track for downtown store on Hastings site

This rendering depicts what the former Hastings shop (the white structure to the right) at 45 South Pleasant St. will look like when redeveloped into an Amherst College store in the front and a five-story mixed-use building in the back.

This rendering depicts what the former Hastings shop (the white structure to the right) at 45 South Pleasant St. will look like when redeveloped into an Amherst College store in the front and a five-story mixed-use building in the back. Kuhn Riddle Architects


Staff Writer

Published: 02-03-2024 11:00 AM

AMHERST — As keys for the former Hastings shop at 45 South Pleasant St. are turned over to Amherst College so that it can open a store this spring to sell apparel, collectibles and other Mammoths-related merchandise, the owners of the third-generation business are teaming up with a prominent developer to advance an adjacent five-story, mixed-use project.

Bringing a campus store to downtown Amherst has the support of Amherst College President Michael A. Elliott.

“The Amherst College store will serve as a gateway to town for students, faculty, staff and the many other visitors who come to campus every year,” Elliott said in a statement that thanked Mary Louise Broll and Sharon Povinelli, Hastings owners and spouses. They are handing over the street-level retail space in the Mercantile Buildings of Amherst to Mike Thomas, the college’s chief financial and administrative officer, and Ralph Johnson, the college’s executive director of campus operations.

Thomas said the expectation is that having a college store downtown will improve the economic vitality of Amherst center.

“In addition to serving our community’s needs for Mammoth merchandise, an Amherst College store will also bring together members of the college and town communities,” Thomas said.

Broll said the decision to turn to the college to use the Hastings space, which has been vacant since the store closed at the end of June 2022, adds on to an existing relationship with the college.

“Their students, faculty, alumni and staff were a huge customer base and further, a constant reminder that our town is built upon the educational sector,” Broll said. “We welcome their enhanced presence in our downtown.”

Hastings was opened by Asa J. Hastings, who purchased the stationery and newsstand business July 17, 1914. In 1937, it moved to its current location, anchoring the block of businesses on what’s known as Merchant’s Row.

Mixed-use building

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Meanwhile, planning is also underway for the eventual removal of the neighboring wood-framed building at 55 South Pleasant. Most recently used as a hair salon and for many years housing the Jeffery Amherst Bookshop, the project will also include demolition of a three-story back ell behind the Hastings store that has been used for storage.

Last fall, the Historical Commission issued a six-month demolition delay on those buildings until more information about them was provided, including the changes to the street facing building, such as the addition of a second story in the 1910s and the addition of a peaked roof in the 1970s. That is believed to be one of the two oldest surviving commercial buildings in downtown.

Povinelli and Broll are working with Amherst developer Barry Roberts on this mixed-use development. Povinelli said it was an obvious choice to work with Roberts, who is committed to the town, and with whom she has worked on the Amherst Business Improvement District.

A concept prepared by Kuhn Riddle Architects shows a small plaza at the front of the new project, where the 55 South Pleasant building has been, with the five stories constructed at the rear and extending behind into what has been an empty lot. Much of the new development is shielded from South Pleasant and the view from the Town Common.

Roberts said this is an ideal place and time in Amherst to continue to build vibrancy and offer more downtown living options.

“The expansion of residential apartments and the renewed long-term retail will be a wonderful addition to this side of town,” Roberts said.

Planning Director Christine Brestrup said that site plans for the project have not yet been filed.