Developer seeks 4-story apartment and medical building at Route 9 and University Drive

  • One University Drive South as seen from the intersection of University Drive and Northampton Road (Route 9). SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • One University Drive South as seen from the intersection of University Drive and Northampton Road (Route 9). SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • One University Drive South in the foreground, with Hawkins Meadow Apartments to the left (west) and Ginger Garden restaurant at the top (north). SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Saturday, January 11, 2020

AMHERST — A four-story building with 72 apartments and a ground-level medical office is being proposed for the southwest corner of Route 9 and University Drive.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will begin a hearing on requests for special permits on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. from UDrive South LLC, whose principals are Amherst developer Barry Roberts and J. Curtis Shumway, president of Hampshire Hospitality Group.

Plans drawn up by Kuhn Riddle Architects of Amherst show a mixed-use building to be known as One University Drive South that would be built close to both Northampton Road and the University Drive extension leading to Snell Street, with parking for residents, patients and employees set next to and behind the building. The project site is across Route 9 from Ginger Garden restaurant and adjacent to Hawkins Meadow Apartments.

Roberts said he would like to move forward with construction later this year if approvals are given for modifying parking regulations, allowing a change from the current existing, non-conforming residential use of the site, and issuing a special permit related to the maximum building height, which at 47 feet is 12 feet higher than allowed under zoning. Developers can exceed this height restriction at the ZBA’s discretion depending on site topography and the neighborhood context.

In the submitted plan, attorney Thomas Reidy of Bacon Wilson PC writes that “the applicant and architects have taken great consideration to this building, and site’s location at the entrance to Amherst, and have tried to make a building and site that will make the town proud.”

The 13,120-square-foot building would include entirely studio and one-bedroom apartments, meaning just 72 beds, with nine of these being affordable apartments, along with the 4,710 square feet of commercial space for the opthamologist practice and 51 parking spaces for tenants, patients and employees. 

Town zoning rules require two parking spaces per residential unit, but the application states that a waiver should be granted from this due to the building’s proximity to the Norwottuck Rail Trail and a Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus stop, as well as on-site storage for bicycles, and that data from similar projects that demonstrates 51 spaces will be enough. Of those spaces, 16 would be reserved for the medical office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

To move forward with the project, a single-family rental home assessed at $332,200 would have to be demolished. Last March, the Conservation Commission held a hearing on an abbreviated notice of resource area delineation for the 3-acre parcel under the town’s Wetlands Protection Bylaw, and would need to issue an order of conditions if ZBA votes favorably.

The project comes 16 years after an effort by property owner Janyce Wziontka of Pompano Beach, Florida, to bring a Walgreens pharmacy to the site, a project that fell through when Town Meeting rejected changing the zoning for a portion of the site to limited business. In addition to generating more traffic, neighbors objected to a second pharmacy being within a few hundred feet of an existing CVS.

Roberts said no rezoning is needed of the property’s professional research park, or PRP, zoning, which encourages development of laboratories and think tanks.

Under a similar corporate identity, UDrive LLC has constructed three apartment buildings and a sit-down restaurant on a section of University Drive closer to the University of Massachusetts campus.

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