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$2.5M building housing doctor’s office opens this week in Amherst

A family doctor who has spent the past five years planning a new building to house her practice moved in this week.

Dr. Kate Atkinson, who has worked from 2,200 square feet of rented space on Cottage Street for the past decade, moved into a $2.5 million building on Research Drive that will give her significantly more space.

Calling it her “dream practice,” Atkinson was expecting to open at the new location Thursday.

“I am immensely grateful to this dedicated construction team who have worked tirelessly to see this project to completion in just nine months,” Atkinson said.

Work on the 15,875-square-foot building, situated between New England Environmental and Hart and Patterson Financial Services, began in April. Wright Builders Inc. of Northampton was the general contractor. Greenfield Savings Bank provided financing for the project.

Like the New England Environmental building, which opened in early 2010, Atkinson’s new office uses green technology and local materials. Solar panels on the roof were provided by PV Squared of Greenfield.

Atkinson expects the building to be LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Currently, Atkinson, Dr. Paul Baecher and nurse practitioner Kathleen Coulombe have about 3,500 patients.

The new location will allow Atkinson Family Practice to integrate medical services with behavioral health care, Atkinson said.

Dr. Nora Schwartz-Martin, a psychiatrist, Dr. Erik Muten, a clinical psychologist, and Chaia Wolf, who offers couples therapy and divorce mediation, will offer care at the Research Drive site. There will also be bodywork and chronic pain services, and part-time cardiology services.

Atkinson said that the opening of the building marks the culmination of a long process that started when she realized her Cottage Street location was too small and she was unable to find other suitable space to either purchase or rent in Amherst.

Reluctant to move from town, she spent a year getting the necessary permits to build, including a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals. That was granted following a vote by Town Meeting in fall 2009 that changed some of the regulations governing medical offices, allowing them to be located on land zoned for professional research parks.

Cinda Jones, who rents the Cottage Street space to Atkinson, said she wishes Atkinson well in her new location. She noted that Atkinson’s father, Dr. Rollin Johnson, was a well-known orthopedic surgeon in Northampton for 25 years.

“As Kate’s landlord, patient and big-time admirer I am so proud of her achievement,” Jones said. “The legacy she’s built reflects so admirably on her father and everything he taught her and it’s an economic asset for her to pass on to her kids along with her entrepreneurial drive.”

Atkinson’s current space will be used for an expanded Pioneer Valley Dermatology and Skin Care Center, run by Dr. Richard Wyatt, Jones said.

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