Hadley planners sign off on office building at Howard Johnson motel site

  • The Howard Johnson motel at 401 Russell Street (Route 9) in Hadley. The Hadley Planning Board on Tuesday approved plans for a developer to demolish the motel and construct a three-story office building in its place. Gazette file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2022 4:22:03 PM

HADLEY — A three-story, 40,500-square-foot office building that will replace the Howard Johnson motel on Route 9 can move forward.

The Planning Board Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of Hampshire Hospitality Group’s plans to construct the red brick building close to the state highway, with all parking behind the building. The decision for the project at 401 Russell St. is pending approvals from other boards and committees, and necessary permits from Town Hall.

But when the project breaks ground, and demolition of the hotel that opened in 1966 and expanded in the early 1990s takes place, will depend on securing a renter for the space, which is not imminent, said Hampshire Hospitality President J. Curtis Shumway.

“We have to get a tenant first,” Shumway said. “Don’t try to watch the paint dry. It’s a tough environment right now.”

The developer may also have to return to the Planning Board if changes are made to landscaping, exterior colors and rooflines presented to the board, and when signs for a tenant are unveiled.

The new building has been characterized as being in the style of the developments on Atwood Drive in Northampton, prompting board member Michael Sarsynski to ask whether one of those buildings’ tenants would like to come to Hadley.

“Kick someone out of Atwood and I know someone who would take space over there,” Sarsynski said.

Board members applauded Mike Gagnon, principal civil engineer with SLR consultants of Springfield, for his work on presenting plans for the project.

Drive-thru coffee shop

Planners also received a second presentation on a drive-thru coffee shop planned for a triangular parcel at 13 Russell St., near the Coolidge Bridge, and bounded by Route 9 and Bay Road. New plans shown by Jeff Squire, a principal with the Berkshire Design Group, have the entrance and exit from Bay Road, rather than an entrance from Route 9. The shop would be inside a 510-square-foot building, with storage on a second floor, but all customers would be served in a drive-thru manner.

A turf paver unit that would look like grass would go over one of the Route 9 entrances, to be used only to facilitate emergency vehicle access, and not as an entrance or exit for others.

Sarsynski said he worries about the speed of vehicles turning onto Bay Road, and then abruptly stopping to turn into the new business.

“We don’t know how quickly cars are being able to slow down as they are coming off the bridge,” Sarsynski said.

“Although it’s better than Route 9,” said board member Mark Dunn.

Squire said the idea is to reuse and clean up the property that has been mostly vacant since a gas station closed several years ago.

“One of the big constraints and challenges with the site is trying to realize some value in it,” Squire said.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, we make bad investments,” Sarsynski responded.

Fire Chief Mike Spanknebel said if the business is only anticipating east bound traffic being able to use the shop, he would like assurances that those heading west toward Northampton wouldn’t try to make left-hand turns.

“We have a pretty serious issue with people taking a left into Cross Path from Route 9 even though there is a no left turn there,” Spanknebel said.

Dunn said those customers might have to go over the bridge and use the roundabout at Damon Road to come back to access Bay Road.

Squire will return to the Oct. 18 meeting to discuss whether there will be a need to make a $10,000 payment to use the town’s transfer of development rights bylaw to get less parking than required under town zoning, as well as to address the fire lanes on the property and staircases on the building.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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