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Assisted living facility moves ahead at Village Hill Northampton, boathouse off Damon Road also approved

The Planning Board Thursday night approved the Grantham Group’s site plan for an 83-unit assisted living facility on Village Hill’s north campus. The three-story, 58,000-square-foot building will be constructed on a 2.5-acre site south of Moser Street between Musante Drive and Village Hill Road. The site is just north of the existing Haskell Building.

In other business Thursday, the board approved a site plan for a business park and community boathouse off Damon Road near the Connecticut River. The public-private partnership between the city and Lane Construction Corp. will include a three-building business park with up to 40,000 square feet of space, a community boathouse and open space preservation along the river.

The Grantham Group’s Village Hill facility will be called Christopher Heights, just like its other facilities in Worcester, Webster, Attleboro and Marlborough. More than half of the units will be affordable, said Walter Ohanian, managing director of the Grantham Group.

He said the company will reserve 43 of the units for low-income residents — 26 for residents below 60 percent of the area median income and 17 units for those below 30 percent.

The company was attracted to the Northampton area and believes it can succeed here, Ohanian said.

“We liked Northampton overall and we feel there is a population here that this type of community will be able to serve,” he said.

Ohanian estimates the project will cost about $12 million to develop, with $8.6 million in direct construction costs including 65 construction jobs. Once complete in about a year, the facility will employ about 40 full- and part-timer workers, he said.

The facility will include 71 studio units averaging about 330 square feet of living space and 12, one-bedroom units with about 525 square feet of space. The units will contain a galley kitchen equipped with a microwave, sink, refrigerator and bathrooms with life/safety alert systems.

Christopher Heights residents will get personal care assistance for bathing and dressing, medication reminders, three meals prepared by a chef, activity programs, housekeeping and safety checks by 24-hour, onsite staff.

A 29-space parking lot will also be developed to the south of the building as part of the project.

Ohanian said there will be two rooms in the facility that can handle as many as 30 people, and that the surrounding community will able to utilize those areas for meetings and other events.

Community boathouse

The business park and boathouse proposal also won Planning Board approval, despite arguments from some River Run Condominiums residents who reiterated traffic and safety worries expressed at a meeting last month.

They are concerned with an increase in the number of vehicles that would use River Run’s driveway to enter and exit the development to and from busy Damon Road.

Jose Bayron, who lives at River Run, said he often gets stuck in traffic getting home in the early evening right now.

“I can’t even fathom ... how bad it’s going to get when the rowers come for events,” he said.

He later added that he thinks it’s a great development, but that the safety concerns should also be addressed.

Resident Kathy De Los Santos said she was excited about the project, but worries the extra traffic will cause more problems unless adequate walkways are included in the development.

“My fear is we’re going to be boxed in,” she told the board.

Others expressed reservations about unauthorized people causing problems and stealing from River Run property. At 216 units, the apartment complex is the largest in the city.

The $4 million business park would produce about 88 jobs and result in about $50,000 a year in property taxes, Planning Director Wayne Feiden said at a previous meeting.

The project is part of a larger partnership between Lane Construction and the city in which the company has agreed to give the city 11 acres of the 23-acre site just north of the River Run complex.

The Recreation Commission would get about half of the 11 acres for the eventual construction of a long-planned Connecticut River Community boathouse. The city is asking for permission to construct a 20,400-square-foot boathouse on two levels, though supporter Jonathan Wright said that’s a “dream” scenario and the building will initially be much smaller.

Wright argued that rowing activities will make the area more secure as the area gets cleaned up and is used for the “wholesome activity” of rowing.

“In the end, we have the same interests,” Wright said.

The other half of the parcel would go to the Conservation Commission in the form of riverfront land that would be protected forever. This parcel will include a multi-use trail that officials hope will eventually connect from the Norwottuck/Mass Central Trail on Damon Road to Elm Court in Hatfield.

The board’s approval came with several conditions that may help alleviate traffic. Among those are construction of a multi-use path when the first commercial building is developed, adding a second left-turn lane to the driveway for better access to Damon Road and construction of sidewalks at River Run, should River Run’s Board of Trustees want it.

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