Northampton Press

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Simcoe pushes for Northampton to make new use of old, vacant lot

Thursday, October 4, 2012 by AL RECKER Special to The Press in Local News

Carol Simcoe, a long time community activist, has come out of semi-retirement.

Simcoe, who for years was involved in the annual street fair and headed the 2002 borough centennial, is advocating for a plan for a vacant commercial lot that, until a fire several years ago, housed a former clothing store.

She appeared before council at its recent meeting supporting borough planning consultant Victor Rodite, who wants to establish a farmers market. However, she took the idea much further, pushing for a project which, if embraced, could completely reshape the uptown area.

With energy usually associated with people much younger, Simcoe began her presentation saying, "I'd like to take you back to a journey to the 2002 centennial."

She then spoke of a concert at the Roxy Theatre by a Beatles tribute band that had the audience dancing in the aisles, an art exhibit that won rave reviews and a wood carving exhibit. The parade and other events added to the centennial's success, she said.

Simcoe then shifted her attention to a proposed farmers market, which she said could be located on the property situated just south of the Roxy Theatre. Simcoe said the property could be purchased through grants.

Once acquired, Simcoe said, the farmers market would be but one piece of the fabric for the site. In addition to locally grown produce, the site could offer crafts and other wares.

The site could include a bandshell for live music, a gazebo, "benches for people to sit on" and a smaller recreation of the former Miller's Department Store.

"It's a win-win situation," said Simcoe, who is credited with revitalizing the Main Street "Uptown Business District."

"We need something to generate foot traffic. Hopefully so that something could be going on all the time," she added.

She said she earlier discussed the idea with Anthony "Tony" Pristash, president of the Northampton Area Chamber of Commerce, seated as a member of council for the first time when Simcoe made her pitch.

Simcoe owns a commercial property across from the Roxy Theatre which, although closed for years, has a treasure trove of artifacts including an old-fashioned soda and malt bar.

Council members made no commitments but were receptive to Simcoe's plans. The next several months could dictate whether the borough will pursue making her plan a reality.