Clark House tenants, management reach agreement over construction disruptions

Staff Writer
Thursday, March 08, 2018

AMHERST — A management company that oversees a downtown apartment building is pledging to take several steps to resolve ongoing concerns from residents affected by a $15.8 million renovation and modernization project.

Among the main steps is a promise by property manager WinnResidential of Boston to hire a full-time clerk of the works to oversee on-site construction. That decision was made during a 90-minute meeting Feb. 26 between tenants at the Clark House, WinnResidential officials and property owner Redwood Housing Partners of Burlingame, California. State Sen. Stanley Rosenberg also attended the meeting.

WinnResidential spokesman Ed Cafasso said management will also ask security staff and contractors to be more respectful of residents when accessing their apartments at the 22 Lessey St. site, and providing a hospitality suite to those residents who need to leave their apartments during work in their units.

“Clearer communication will be a standing priority to make sure residents understand the status of any work performed in their apartments, as well as the progress of the project overall,” Cafasso said.

Tenants at the 100-apartment, five-story building have been increasingly frustrated with the project and what they see as a lack of response from the property owner and manager.

Mary Ellen Alicandri, who has lived at Clark House for seven years, said she greets the pledge with optimism, especially around hiring a clerk of works to supervise and a willingness to better communicate.

“If that happens and if that person does a good job, we might actually know what’s going on more,” Alicandri said.

Alicandri was among six tenants who met at the Bangs Community Center the evening of Feb. 27 to get an update on whether concerns have been identified during the work on the building.

Christina Rose, who has been staying at the Marriott hotel in Hadley, has been among the most critical, calling the condition of the building an “utter disgrace” and that senior citizens have been mistreated.

“We do not get answers, it just does not happen,” Rose said.

Others who asked not to be identified say they remain worried about their own health, with dust and debris, including stress from having workers intruding into their apartments and putting the bathrooms off limit, and a rising number of bedbugs.

Some even questioned whether the intention of the project was to drive out the many senior citizens as a way to convert it from federal Section 8 housing assistance into housing for college students.

The project began last November with financing by the quasi-public agency Mass Housing. The work includes replacing all domestic hot and cold water piping, improving accessibility, upgrading the community room, modernizing elevators and replacing sliding glass doors and windows.

Cafasso said the work in the south tower will wrap up in early March, and the work in the north tower will begin shortly after that, with another four months to complete.

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