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Pair of 5-story, mixed-used buildings planned in Amherst

  • View of proposed new mixed-use buildings on East Pleasant Street from Kendrick Park, with existing Kendrick Place building to the far left. Submitted Illustration

  • View of proposed new mixed-use buildings on East Pleasant Street, and new commercial building, from above West Cemetery, with existing Kendrick Place building to the far right. —Submitted Illustration



Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2018

AMHERST — Two five-story, mixed-use projects, featuring 68 apartments, and a smaller building that could be used by a restaurant or other business, are being planned for a section of East Pleasant Street near Pray Street.

Central Amherst Realty Trust of Westborough recently submitted conceptual plans to the planning department for the projects, which would be built across from Kendrick Park. Construction would follow the demolition of the building formerly used by Bertucci’s restaurant at 51 East Pleasant, and the 70-year-old building at 33-37 East Pleasant that houses Amherst Copy & Designworks and The Spoke.

The Design Review Board will review the plans at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Town Room at Town Hall.

The plans show buildings with mostly red brick and flat roofs, flush with the street and with improved sidewalks and landscaping. The buildings are largely separate, with an alleyway between them and a fifth-floor passageway connecting them.

The two buildings will hold a total of 68 apartments, a mix of one- and two-bedroom units. The larger building, on the Bertucci’s site, will have 8,231 square feet for businesses, while the smaller building will have 4,928 square feet dedicated to commercial space. The buildings also have 63 parking spaces.

The commercial building to be constructed between the municipal parking lots on Pray Street would be 2,948 square feet in size.

Planning Director Christine Brestrup said the plans have unfolded in recent weeks.

“Central Amherst Realty Trust has been thinking about doing something there for a while,” she said.

Efforts to reach Herbert Alexander, a trustee with Central Amherst Realty, by phone and email were unsuccessful.

A hearing before the Planning Board has not yet been scheduled. Because it will not need a special permit, the project will not trigger the mandate that a portion of the apartments be set aside for low- and moderate-income residents.

Amherst Business Improvement District Executive Director Sarah la Cour said she is glad to see these projects take shape.

“It’s a good sign for our local economy,” she said. “It’s a positive for downtown Amherst that people are investing in downtown. That’s really significant.”

La Cour noted that Central Amherst Realty Trust moved quickly following Bertucci’s closing in the spring. “It’s great that when Bertucci’s left these property owners saw a huge opportunity,” she said.

What will happen to the existing businesses should these projects move forward is uncertain, but Brestrup said their owners likely have the opportunity to locate in some of the new commercial space.

Concerns about traffic and how the buildings will impact downtown parking should be addressed through the permitting process, La Cour said.

Because the sites are part of the municipal parking overlay district, on-site parking is not required.

The buildings would go up between the Kendrick Place mixed-use building, which opened in 2015 for about 100 residents, and the One East Pleasant mixed-use building that is slated to have its 140 tenants move in over the summer.

While the Gateway redevelopment project, a joint venture between the University of Massachusetts and the Amherst Redevelopment Authority, never got off the ground due to neighborhood objections, the proposed projects fits its vision, as well as the town master plan, of what is called in-fill development.

During the Gateway project, ACP Visioning and Planning, consultants hired by the town, showed these parcels bounded by East Pleasant, Triangle and Pray streets, as well as adjacent sites, as the location for four-story buildings, with retail on the ground level and apartments on the upper levels.

Spring Street parcel

Also on Tuesday, Archipelago Investments LLC, which handled Kendrick and One Pleasant, as well as Boltwood Place on Boltwood Walk and Olympia Place on Olympia Drive, will meet with the Design Review Board to revise its proposed project on a vacant parcel on Spring Street.

That project, situated next to Grace Episcopal Church, behind the Pacific Lodge of Masons and across from the Lord Jeffery Inn and approved by the Planning Board last year, keeps 1,000 square feet for commercial use, but increases the number of dwellings from 38 to 58, by removing 17 underground parking spots included in the original plans.

The apartments are mostly one-bedroom units and a variety of studio sizes.

The Planning Board on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall will take up the revisions at a new hearing. In addition to reviewing the site plans, the board must act on two special permit requests, one for exceeding the maximum height, the second for not having a sufficient rear setback.

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