Developer plans 100 housing units, community center at former Belchertown State School

  • The former Belchertown State School administration building in an undated photo. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/11/2021 8:16:49 PM

BELCHERTOWN — State and local economic development officials announced Wednesday that Brisa Ventures LLC has purchased a 12-acre parcel at Carriage Grove, the site of the former Belchertown State School that closed in 1992, with plans to build 100 new units of housing.

The company, based in Brooklyn, will also preserve and transform the former state school administration building into a community center, museum, arts and meeting space, with either a restaurant, brewery or distillery, according to MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency.

“This project will be an economic driver for the town, create new housing and community space, and will be connected to the trail network and other recreation opportunities in Belchertown,” Select Board member Jen Turner said.

The announcement comes from MassDevelopment and the Belchertown Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (BEDIC), which have worked together to reuse the 400,000-square-foot state school property since 2012.

Officials said the new rental units will be designed as a mix of two- and three-story apartment buildings and townhomes. They will use solar energy to meet net-zero energy use; the project also includes green common areas, outdoor play space and community gathering spaces.

The former administration building is composed of two structures, built in 1926 and 1967, totaling about 14,000 square feet. The 1926 structure has ground and first floors, while the 1967 structure has ground, first and second floors.

Construction is expected to start by the end of 2022 and take 18 to 24 months. Officials said the announcement this week is the first phase of a larger partnership with Brisa Ventures that will include more commercial and residential development.

“We’re excited as a town because the state school property has been a challenge to develop over the years,” said Turner, due to its historical reputation and environmental problems with “since-removed structures on the property.”

Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy said the project “marks another exciting step … in transforming the former Belchertown State School from an underutilized asset into a thriving mixed-use community.”

Christopher Heights, an 83-unit assisted living facility, opened at Carriage Grove in June 2018. Belchertown Day School, an early childhood education center, opened in September 2020.

MassDevelopment said multifamily residential lots of up to 24 acres, and commercial lots of up to 9 acres, are now available, and 7.5 acres are available for retail, medical, or office use along Route 202.

“The mixed housing development will provide needed rental units for the town and ensure that other businesses and light industrial enterprises have a workforce close at hand,” said Jonathan Spiegel, one of the longest-serving members of the BEDIC. “We expect this first phase will entice other employers to seek space at the site for their businesses and benefit the entire town.”

Brisa Ventures LLC is a partnership between Brisa Development and ADC Communities, based in California, one of the largest developers and financiers of mixed-income residential properties in the country, according to MassDevelopment.

“Brisa has been given a unique opportunity to build a master-development that is diverse in uses, sustainable and enjoyable for all who interact with the site,” said Hammad Graham, a managing member of Brisa Development. “Brisa believes that the Carriage Grove development will contribute to a sense of community, culture and coming together.”

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.


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