The Economic Impacts of the Restoration of Schell Bridge
The proposed restoration of the Schell Memorial Bridge as a pedestrian and bikeway connector would have a significant positive economic impact on the community of Northfield and Franklin County, Massachusetts.
Under conservative assumptions of construction and new visitor expenditures, a rehabilitated Schell Memorial Bridge would have a total annual economic impact close to $15 million dollars over its first 10 years of operation. Roughly 57% of these impacts would come from the roughly 13,000 additional visitors coming to Franklin County each year. The rest would come from construction, ongoing maintenance, and the expansion and upgrading of recreational trails connecting to the bridge site.
We also see considerable potential for the Schell bridge to attract even more visitors if successfully coupled with extensive marketing and promotion, and deliberate actions to tie the bridge to other heritage and recreational destinations. On its own, the rehabilitation of a single bridge is unlikely to act as a significant catalyst to the regional economy. This is because recreational and heritage tourists are rarely attracted to a single amenity, but rather are attracted to the entire portfolio of complementary amenities in a region. Our estimates only assume a modest degree of marketing. Concerted efforts to promote the bridge as part of a multi-state recreational and heritage network and site for cultural and community events would greatly well increase—perhaps even doubling— the number of annual visitors.
The proposed restoration of the Schell Memorial Bridge is also likely to provide additional benefits to the economic vitality of the community that are not easily quantified. These include:
- As a centerpiece for a larger vision of recreation and heritage tourism development in the region, new or expanded businesses adapting to meet additional tourism demand can increase profitability, expand local employment and increase local tax revenues.
A restored bridge will enhance the quality of life and “sense of place” for the town and region, which in turn supports economic development as scenic and recreational amenities increasingly pro- mote Northfield as an attractive lo- cation to work and live.
The arrival of the C.S. Lewis College will boast additional recreational amenities and linkages to regional bike routes, enhancing their ability to recruit students and encouraging visitors to extend their stay.
Northfield will have enhanced physical and visual connections to the Connecticut River and a stronger “River Town” brand to market the town and region to non-local visitors.
With the bridge and adjacent riverside park as a scenic venue for public gatherings, the economic impact of festivals and community events will be increased through the spending of additional non-local attendees at existing events and opportunities to host new bridge-related races, events or multi- day festivals.
Recent empirical studies and survey reports indicate that real property values appreciate at a faster rate near trails and greenways when compared to other land values in rural areas.
The collaboration required between local governments and regional bodies, non-profit organizations, and private sector stakeholders serves to strengthen opportunities for future regional partnerships for economic development.