Amherst planners to vet plans for new mixed-use development downtown

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 16, 2017

AMHERST — Developers who are changing the downtown streetscape with combined residential and commercial projects intend to bring another mixed-use building to Amherst center.

Archipelago Investments LLC will come before the Planning Board at 7 p.m. March 1 with a proposal to construct a 38-apartment building, with 1,000 square feet of retail space and 17 parking spaces, at 26 Spring St., a vacant lot adjacent to the Grace Episcopal Church and immediately across from the Lord Jeffery Inn.

Amherst Business Improvement District Executive Director Sarah la Cour said she is thrilled that Archipelago is moving forward with another development.

“We’re really excited about the fact that we’re getting these kind of projects,” la Cour said. “This is exactly what we need in the downtown.”

Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tim O’Brien agrees with la Cour’s assessment, observing that the proposal is consistent with the town’s master plan, which recommends increasing residential density in the downtown and the village centers.

O’Brien said the project will add to the growing “live, work, play” feel in downtown and create a critical base of customers for downtown restaurants and shops.

The mixed-use building should also generate more taxes for the town than the empty lot, said Economic Development Director Geoff Kravitz.

“Having a piece of developed property there is certianly beneficial to the town,” Kravitz said.

Archipelago, whose principals are Kyle Wilson and David Williams, with an office on South Pleasant Street, has already completed two mixed-use downtown projects — Boltwood Place, at 49 Boltwood Walk, which opened in 2012 with 12 apartments and Judie’s Art Bar, and Kendrick Place, at 57 East Pleasant St., which opened in 2015 with 36 apartments and the MassMutual Data Science Center.

Archipelago is also in the process of building One East Pleasant, with 135 apartments and commercial space, to replace the demolished Amherst Carriage Shops. The developer also built Olympia Place at 57 Olympia Drive, which has 75 apartments for college students in a cul-de-sac near the University of Massachusetts campus.

La Cour notes that the vacant Spring Street site is a perfect place to encourage density, as it marks part of a transition zone between the commercial areas of downtown and adjacent residential neighborhoods and the Amherst College campus.

Until it was demolished by the Pacific Lodge of Masons in 2010, the historic Chauncey Lessey home stood on the site. Built in 1870 by Lessey, a prominent 19th-century Amherst resident, the house was an example of the Stick Gothic Revival style. In addition, Levi Stockbridge, a former president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, once lived in the home.

The Pacific Lodge, which bought the property for $375,000 from Shirley Rice Johnson in 2003, sold the property to San Realty Corp. of Glastonbury, Connecticut for $750,000 in 2015, according to town property records.

O’Brien said the plans show a building that is respectful to its surroundings and will fit in well with neighboring properties, including the Amherst Police Station. Unlike some of Archipelago’s projects with flat roofs, this one will have a peaked roof.

In addition to the site plan review for the project, the Planning Board is being asked to provide two special permits, one to modify the dimensional requirements, increasing maximum lot coverage to 77 percent instead of 70 percent, and the other to fall under the 10-foot rear setback.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.