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Northampton Planning Board to hear plans for a new office building, hotel and restaurant off Route 5 at site of Clarion Hotel



Saturday, November 16, 2013
NORTHAMPTON — Buoyed by successful development of a two-building office park off Route 5 near the Clarion Hotel, the principal owners of the Hampshire Hospitality Group are moving ahead with ambitious plans for a nearby project that includes another office building, demolition of the Clarion Hotel to make way for another hotel or office building, and a new restaurant.

Plans call for three buildings built on 7.8 acres on the north side of Atwood Drive, not far from Interstate 91’s Exit 18. They include a new four-story, 80,000-square-foot office building at the rear of the property behind the hotel where a pool and tennis courts are located; a new, three-story, 107-room hotel once the existing Clarion Hotel is demolished; and a 4,000-square-foot restaurant along Route 5. The project also calls for 487 parking spaces, most of which would be sited between the new office building and the new hotel, according to plans filed with the city’s Office of Planning and Sustainability.

Ken Vincunas, general manager and owner of Development Associates of Agawam, said the developers are merely seeking permits for the project and do not have tenants lined up for any of the proposed buildings. The project is being proposed by a group that includes hotelier J. Curtis Shumway called Atwood Drive LLC. Development Associates is acting as development manager and leasing agent for the project, which will be constructed as leases are secured.

“We’re going for permits only; we don’t have users per se,” Vincunas said. “It’s kind of a crystal ball effort at this point.”

The project, dubbed Hospitality North, must win approval for a major site plan and a special permit for a hotel from the Planning Board, as well as Conservation Commission approval because it is within the 100-year floodplain. Developers are expected to detail their plans before both boards at separate meetings Thursday night.

The project as proposed would also include construction of a new traffic signal at the Route 5-Atwood Drive intersection, making it easier for buses from the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority to navigate the busy intersection.

Like the recently completed office park, called the Northampton I-91 Professional Center, the new project would continue development of an important area of the city that officials have wanted to see developed for some time, said Carolyn Misch, senior land use planner with the city. Not only will the project boost the city’s tax rolls and enhance economic development, but it is more consistent with the city’s Sustainable Northampton plan, Misch said. The project will rely on existing infrastructure and include multi-story buildings, which are more functional and use less green space than buildings with fewer stories.

“Overall, this is great for the city,” Misch said.

Like the office buildings built across Atwood to the south, the new office space will be marketed to a mix of medical and general office tenants, Vincunas said.

“We had more people than we could accommodate there (with two buildings),” he said.

One of those buildings at 8 Atwood Drive, closest to Route 5, is completed and occupied by Clinical & Support Options, a behavioral health agency that occupies the second and third floors, and Cooley Dickinson Hospital, which is preparing to move Northampton Family Practice from its Carlon Drive location and Cooley Dickinson Rehabilitation Services from its Locust Street site into the main floor. Cooley Dickinson has also leased the entire office building at 22 Atwood Drive, where it will house speciality physician practices, among other offerings.