Smith College moving ahead with plan for housing complex of five buildings off Paradise Road in Northampton

Last modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — Responding to a demand from students who would prefer more apartment-style housing options, Smith College intends to construct a five-building housing complex along Paradise Road near the college quadrangle that will house 80 students.

The two-story buildings, each of which would be home to 16 students, are to replace existing housing elsewhere on campus and do not reflect an increase in enrollment, said Samuel A. Masinter, director of college relations.

“We’re not increasing our class sizes,” Masinter said.

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He added that the college is attempting to address the desire of juniors and seniors who want to live in housing that more closely resembles an apartment rather than the more traditional options that Smith has offered, although the latter style will remain a major part of the college’s student housing.

The complex, with a working title of Paradise Road Apartments, would be constructed surrounding a central green with walkways connecting the new housing with the rest of campus, according to records filed with the city’s Office of Planning and Sustainability. Masinter said the project is expected to be complete in January 2016.

The project is planned for a 2.7-acre site that includes several college-owned buildings such as the Mason Infirmary at 69 Paradise Road, the former Sunnyside Child Care Center at 70 Paradise Road and a pair of homes at 65 and 66 Paradise Road. Those buildings will be demolished or removed as part of the project.

The Historical Commission granted the college permission to tear down the infirmary last summer because the building does not fit in with the neighborhood. Masinter said the building will be demolished in June, and the health center operations will reopen at the start of next school year in a new student health center off Belmont Avenue near the Olin Fitness Center. That center has been named The Schacht Center for Health and Wellness in recognition of trustee emerita Nancy Godfrey Schacht and her husband, Henry Schacht.

The commission also agreed to rescind demolition delays on the former day-care building and the home at 66 Paradise Road known as the F. Dwight Drury house in exchange for a college assurance that parts would be salvaged before the buildings come down. The plan involves an architectural firm removing items of value and interest such as windows, doors and fixtures and making them available for sale or reuse elsewhere.

Finally, the commission Monday night imposed a one-year demolition delay for the single-family home at 65 Paradise Road. The college initially planned to move the home to nearby Dryads Green, but officials told the commission that would be too expensive, said Sarah LaValley, a conservation, preservation and land use planner with the Office of Planning and Sustainability.

Instead, the college has agreed to put the home on the market in hopes that someone will buy it and move it off site. If that does not happen, the home can be demolished in a year when the delay expires.

Board review

The Paradise Road Apartments project is scheduled for a major site plan review by the Planning Board Thursday night, although Carolyn Misch, senior land use planner, said the hearing may be continued depending on the status of a stormwater permit that must be granted before the board can approve a site plan.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Puchalski Municipal Building, with the Smith housing hearing scheduled for 7:50 p.m.

The college is also requesting a permit from the Conservation Commission to work within 200 feet of the Mill River.

The new housing is expected to replace the Friedman apartment complex that houses 52 students off Elm Street between Round Hill Road and Henshaw Avenue, Masinter said. He said each building would have four, four-student apartments. Each apartment would have its own kitchen and shared living room and study space, though there would not be a central dining area similar to other housing on campus.

The plan provides 43 parking spaces, 36 of which would be in a main lot behind the buildings. Another three spaces would be placed next to existing parking at 61 Paradise Road, and four new parallel spaces are proposed for a private portion of Dryads Green next to Comstock Hall.

The central portion of the site would encourage bicycling and pedestrians with the green space, racks for 40 bicycles and walkways at least 8-feet wide.


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