Multistory building coming to downtown Florence

A rendering of the planned development at 81 Maple St. in Florence.

A rendering of the planned development at 81 Maple St. in Florence. THOMAS DOUGLAS ARCHITECTS

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 02-15-2024 1:46 PM

Modified: 02-15-2024 7:38 PM


NORTHAMPTON — Nearly a decade after he developed a large office building at a prominent intersection at the corner of Main and Maple streets in downtown Florence, business owner Gaurang Patel is moving ahead with plans for a second mixed-use structure next door.

Patel, who owns the nearby Bird’s Store at 94 Maple St., received site plan approval from the Planning Board to construct a three-story, 4,250-square-foot building at 81 Maple St. The 40-foot high building will be constructed in a vacant lot between the 100 Main St. office building he developed in 2014 and the Florence fire station.

The new building, once completed, will include a two-bedroom apartment and commercial space on its first floor, three one-bedroom and two two-bedroom apartments on its second floor and four two-bedroom apartments on its third floor for a total of ten new housing units, according to Perry Reynolds, a civil engineer for the project who spoke at the Planning Board meeting on Feb. 8.

In discussing additional tree plantings on the property, Reynolds also indicated that the commercial space has potential for a new restaurant to move into.

“We had some additional (planting) stuff proposed here, but with further review was deemed that this would be better reserved for future possible seating if a restaurant comes in,” Reynolds said.

Patel said in an interview that there were no current plans for the commercial space, and that he was still working on securing financing for the building. He also said that there was no final cost associated for developing the property.

“This is part of a long-term project that we’ve envisioned,” Patel said. “We definitely need more commercial and housing in Florence.”

The 81 Maple St. address is currently a vacant lot that was previously home to a singlefamily home, separated from 100 Main St. by a parking lot. Patel and Reynolds requested that the property receive a special permit reducing the required parking space for the property so that the two properties could share the same lot, a request the board granted.

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The board also received several letters of recommendation and endorsement supporting the project, such as one from Mark Vaclavicek, the vice president of the Florence Civic and Business Association.

“The FCBA believes that this project, featuring commercial spaces at the street level and residential units above, is perfectly aligned with the needs and values of our community,” Vaclavicek wrote. “As an association deeply invested in the city of Florence, we appreciate the project’s contribution to housing demands, in-fill development and the creation of a pedestrian-friendly environment.”

City Council President Alex Jarrett, who represents Florence, also submitted a letter of support for the project, as well as supporting the request on reducing the required parking space.

“Shared parking between residential and commercial uses makes a lot of sense because commercial and residential usage patterns differ and are complementary,” Jarrett wrote. “I think it’s an excellent addition to downtown Florence.”

The property will also be significant as the first new building that will be wholly subject to the city’s new lighting policy, which was passed by the council in January.

“You get to be our first test case under that ordinance,” said Planning Board member George Kahout at the Feb. 8 meeting.

Meant to reduce light pollution, the new lighting standards ensure that any new lighting installed covers the lightbulb entirely, bans incandescent lights, and severely limits the total amount of lumens, or measure of visible light, that can be emitted by street lighting.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.