Starting Point: Quiet New England town, blessed with Smith, a top-ranked women’s college
Organizing Strategy: Make Northampton a hub for shopping and the arts, building on the collegial relationships between the area’s premier schools
Tools: Town planning
Outcomes: Sweet spot of commerce and livability; deserved reputation for welcoming of diversity
GPS: 42° 20’N 72° 41’W
The Pioneer Valley’s Five College area—a triangle encompassing UMass; Amherst; Hampshire; and two of the Seven Sisters, Mount Holyoke and Smith—is better characterized by its liberté and égalité than fraternities. Undergrads hang mainly in Amherst, while neighboring Northampton provides an escape from the dorms, with a social scene shaped by local outdoor enthusiasts coming in for a good meal, concert at the Calvin, indie flick at the Pleasant Street Theatre, or new music at the Iron Horse.
Northampton is known as an academic, artistic, musical, and countercultural hub. It features a large politically liberal community along with numerous alternative health and intellectual organizations. Based on U.S. Census demographics, election returns, and other criteria, the website Epodunk rates Northampton as the most politically liberal medium-size city (population 25,000–99,000) in the United States. The city has a high proportion of residents who identify as gay and lesbian a high number of same-sex households, and is a popular destination for the LGBTQ community.