Colleges, Cities Find Creative Ways to Bridge Town-Gown Divide

Tony Maroulis, executive director of external relations and university events and UTAC co-director, is interviewed about how officials at UMass Amherst work with town officials to deal with a variety of issues related to student behavior, especially in neighborhoods that abut the campus. He also discusses economic development issues. The segment begins at 7:45 in the “Colleges find Create Ways….” portion of the broadcast. (WNPR [Conn.]

2017 Spring Retreat

On March 30, UTAC members met for a first-ever all-committee retreat. Held in the UMass Campus Center, the day's work was moderated by George Smith, Vice President of U3 Advisors, who was instrumental in producing the 2014 UMass/Town of Amherst Housing and Economic Development Plan which recommended the formation of UTAC.

Over 30 UTAC members attended the retreat, highlighting the importance of UTAC to town-gown relations. With an eye to taking stock of the collaboration at the year and a half mark, at the retreat there was consensus on the following:

Fall Updates

Committee Updates

Working groups took center stage during the summer months. The first few meetings of the academic year were dedicated to getting subcommittees up to speed on activity of their working groups and discussing priorities for 2017. Now past the foundational work of the first year, subcommittees are looking to accelerate their efforts and make meaningful recommendations to the UTAC Executive Committee.

Summer Updates

While the UTAC Steering and subcommittees have been on hiatus for the summer, working groups from the Economic Development, Housing, and Culture subcommittees are meeting on a regular basis to tackle some of the many topics that had emerged during the Town-Gown effort's first year.

UTAC staff - Amherst Economic Development Director Geoff Kravitz and UMass Director of External Relations Tony Maroulis - meet weekly to keep tabs on all of the efforts. Current working groups that have already met are the following:

Amherst town-gown work continues

From the Daily Hampshire Gazette (with permission)

Staff Writer

Monday, April 18, 2016​

AMHERST – Six months into its work, subcommittees of a permanent board linking the town and the University of Massachusetts are continuing to research housing, economic development and arts and culture endeavors that will improve Amherst.

But even though few recommendations have been brought forward by these three subcommittees to the University-Town of Amherst Collaborative, Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek, its co-chairman, said subcommittee members are creating a foundation of understanding between the town and UMass, and will soon move into a stage where opportunities can be pursued.

“The consensus is that we’re looking for a real collaborative relationship with the subcommittees, not a really heavy top-down structure,” Ziomek said. 

March/April update

The University-Town of Amherst Collaborative Steering Committee will meet on Thursday, April 14 at 5pm in the Town Room in Amherst Town Hall. This will be the third meeting of the Steering Committee since UTAC's launch in October. 

At the last meeting Steering Committee gave the go-ahead to the Culture, Arts & Living subcommittee to pursue an ArtPlace America Creative Placemaking Fund grant for a proposed proposed project using art to better link UMass and downtown Amherst. This meeting will focus on the Steering Committee's role in relation to the Economic Development, Housing, and Culture subcommittees. 

Meanwhile, the subcommittees have been busy, with all forming or planning to form subgroups on issues that have been identified and prioritized for further study or action. Here's a quick update on each:

February Update

Since the University Town of Amherst Collaborative (UTAC) launched in late October, its three subcommittees - Housing, Economic Development, and Culture, Arts & Living - have been meeting regularly with members getting up to speed on past initiatives which may inform their work, as well as identifying opportunities for town-gown collaboration. Below is short update on each of the subcommittees:

University-Town of Amherst Collaborative Kicks Off

On October 28, the Steering Committee of the University-Town of Amherst Collaborative, or UTAC, had its first-ever meeting, held appropriately in the Amherst Room at the UMass Campus Center. The Steering Committee, co-chaired by Amherst Interim Town Manager David Ziomek and UMass Associate Vice Chancellor Nancy Buffone, met to receive its charge from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and Amherst Select Board chair Alisa Brewer and to receive updates on preparations for the start of the initiative. 

The formation of UTAC was one of five key recommendations made by U3 Advisors, who consulted on the Town Gown Steering Committee launched by Chancellor Subbaswamy and then Town Manager John Musante in 2013. The other recommendations were that UMass Amherst adopt an anchor strategy that embraces the Town of Amherst; thorough exploration by UTAC of mixed-use and housing development; focused joint pursuit by UMass and the Town of public-private partnerships; and the creation of an economic development director position for the Town of Amherst. 


The University-Town of Amherst Collaborative (UTAC) is a joint initiative of the Town of Amherst and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It is made up of Amherst residents, UMass Amherst town and university officials, and UMass Amherst students.

UTAC is an advisory council to the town manager and chancellor which provides leadership and ideas, while building support for future joint endeavors. These include, but are not limited to, identifying sites for undergraduate mixed-use development, jointly pursuing public-private partnerships, and helping to create an anchor strategy for the university that embraces the town and fosters economic success.

UTAC is a direct result of the Town Gown Steering Committee, created in 2013 with a joint commitment by Amherst and UMass to hire a consultant to aid in the development of a shared economic development and housing vision. The committee worked with U3 Advisors of Philadelphia on the UMass/Amherst Housing and Economic Development Plan upon which all future work is based.