Smith College moves ahead with plans to raze old Green Street Cafe building

Last modified: Tuesday, July 02, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College will raze the former Green Street Cafe building next to Ford Hall next week and convert the site to green space as part of a long-term expansion plan.

The demolition comes some 18 months after the popular cafe closed its doors, bringing an end to a long-standing tenancy dispute between its owners and the college.

Plans call for the 66 Green St. site to be converted into a landscaped corridor between center campus and Ford Hall, the college’s engineering building, spokeswoman Kristen Cole said Monday.

The project will consist of one or two days of preparation starting Tuesday, May 28, with the heaviest work scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

The Ford Hall parking lot will be closed for about two weeks. Arnold Avenue residents who park in the lot will receive parking passes for Smith’s nearby garage during that time, Cole said.

The Green Street area has undergone a dramatic change as part of the college’s effort to accommodate its engineering program, most notably with the completion of Ford Hall in 2009. The project required the demolition of four college-owned apartment buildings on Belmont and Arnold avenues and two buildings on Green Street that had been in college use.

About nine months ago, the college tore down a pair of houses at 21 and 27 Belmont Avenue following a one-year demolition delay imposed by the Historical Commission.

The commission also imposed a demolition delay on the old Green Street Cafe building last fall, but limited it to six months given the plans had been discussed in the public arena for some time, said Sarah LaValley, land use and conservation planner for the city.

LaValley said the commission felt the building was becoming “increasingly important in the streetscape” given the number of buildings that have been demolished in recent years. In the end, though, commissioners realized saving the building likely wasn’t feasible, LaValley said.

The building was constructed sometime between 1884 and 1895. Based on an old obituary, Mary Beth Warner lived in the house for a time. She is a descendant of Seth Warner, who has ties to Northampton’s early history, LaValley said.

Smith bought the building in 2007 from Housing and Economic Resources for Women, or HER, Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing organization. In addition to the cafe, the building contained some 15 single-room occupancy housing units. Part the agreement called for Smith to build a new and enhanced affordable housing development for HER at 180 Earle St.


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