Five-story building with 78 apartments and four retail spaces would replace Amherst Carriage Shops

Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2014
AMHERST — A five-story building with 78 apartments, 36 garaged parking spots and space for four retailers has been proposed to replace the Amherst Carriage Shops.

The plans for 1 East Pleasant, the name Archipelago Investments LLC of Amherst has given the project, were submitted to the town’s Planning Department on Aug. 5.

Building Commissioner Robert Morra said Tuesday that the Planning Board has scheduled a hearing on the site plans for 7:05 p.m. Oct. 1 in the Town Room at Town Hall.

Archipelago made a $4.6 million offer for the Carriage Shops property in February. Since then, many of the commercial tenants have found new spaces downtown or in other parts of Amherst.

Illustrations of 1 East Pleasant, designed by Holst Architecture of Portland, Oregon, depict a large U-shaped building featuring extensive red brick and white cedar siding, with a significant number of windows. Morra said its exterior will be similar in appearance to the Kendrick Place mixed-use project under construction at the intersection of Triangle and East Pleasant streets.

The building will follow the perimeter of the Carriage Shops property, extending along East Pleasant Street until it meets the driveway near the Toy Box at 201 North Pleasant St., then running west to east along that driveway as it gets to the West Cemetery, before following the western edge of the cemetery as it arrives at the Piper Building at 9 East Pleasant St.

There will be space for 180 tenants in the 78 apartments. The layout shows 32 one-bedroom, one-bath apartments, each 520 square feet in size; 18 two-bedroom, two-bath apartments at 800 square feet; and 28 four-bedroom, two-bath units, each 1,150 square feet.

On the ground floor facing the East Pleasant Street sidewalk will be 7,500 square feet of retail space and an entrance lobby with two elevators giving access to the apartments. In addition, there is “collaboration space,” which could house a start-up company affiliated with the University of Massachusetts.

Morra said no public parking is expected at the site, with spaces reserved for tenants. Vehicles would enter the property at its northwest corner to use a parking garage. It would be covered by a “green roof,” with grass and other vegetation growing on top as part of an effort to achieve Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design certification.

Morra said he has spoken with Archipelago partners David Williams and Kyle Wilson to ensure that there are no building code issues. “In concept, it’s fine,” Morra said.

The developers are requesting two special permits. The first is to have the maximum building coverage on the lot be 80 percent, which exceeds the 70-percent limit in the downtown commercial district. Also, the height of the building will be 60 feet, which is 5 feet taller than allowed.

On the back side of property, facing West Cemetery, is what the Holst illustrations describe as a “reproduced mural.” Because the Amherst History Mural was painted directly onto the Carriage Shops in 2005, the developers are not planning to save the original.

Unlike other downtown projects in the Archipelago portfolio — Kendrick Place and Boltwood Place next to Boltwood parking garage — existing structures will need to be removed for the latest development. Amherst Carriage Shops, originally built as a hotel in 1962, and two buildings in front of it — one that houses Loose Goose Cafe, the other the law offices of Seewald, Jankowski & Spencer — are all subject to the town’s demolition delay bylaw. This allows the Historical Commission to decide if the building is historically significant, and impose a one-year delay on its demolition if it determines it is. Already, the Cambridge artist who completed the mural is seeking to save his work.

Archipelago has not applied yet for a demolition permit, Morra said. The company would have to disconnect utilities and test for asbestos in advance of any work.

Morra said because a large parking lot is in the middle of the existing buildings, it should be easy to undertake the demolition without disrupting businesses inside nearby properties.

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