As someone who grew up in Williamstown and is an ‘03 graduate of Williams College, I was saddened to see the changes that have taken place on Spring Street during a recent visit back to Williamstown. It seems that old institutions, such as the Newsroom, are dying out and I fear for the longevity of the remaining ones left on Spring Street. I was sorry to see that the Ephorium, an idea that was first discussed when I was part of the student government at Williams, is no longer there. During my visit, I perceived a general sense among small business owners and Spring Street shopkeepers that the college, as landlord and major property owner, has become more "corporate" in its dealings with the town and is less interested in creating a sustainable and thriving downtown if it means subsidizing or nurturing its existence.
I find this puzzling given a recent alumni communication I received in June, in which President Falk emphasized the importance of Spring Street as a component of the social ecosystem of our town. While I laud the college's strategic vision for Spring Street, which has as its three components a revitalized Log, an inn or bed and breakfast at the bottom of Spring Street and a college bookstore (Water Street books would move from its present location), I have always cherished the fact that Spring Street is a place where you have businesses that serve the local population and not just students and their parents and tourists.
As President Falk writes, we are "fortunate to still have within walking distance of campus some of the amenities that are disappearing from town business districts across the country." Is that not something worth fighting to hold on to against the general decline in small town America occurring across the country? It seems to me that maintaining the small businesses of Spring Street is a small price to pay for this and that it is in the long-term interests of Williams College. If the college can help find other aspiring entrepreneurs and business to fill the large amount of vacancies on Spring Street, then I will be very happy and consider this letter an unnecessary exercise. My concern is that they will not be able to do this, or at least not in way that honors the fact that Spring Street should always be Spring Street - small town New England at its best!