Relocation plans move forward for 101 UMass families forced to leave North Village

  • Tammy Kazazi, right, a resident at North Village Apartments, holding Zahir, talks about the closing of the family housing complex by the University of Massachusetts as other residents Jose Blesa, left, Marcus Opalenik holding Fafa, and Arash Manafirad holding Shana listen on Sept. 10. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/22/2019 12:43:51 PM

AMHERST — Three apartment complexes in North Amherst are expected to become the new homes for most of the families being forced to leave North Village next spring in advance of a two-year project to rebuild the aging University of Massachusetts buildings at 990 North Pleasant St.

UMass Amherst spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said Thursday that university officials are working closely with the 100 or so affected families to make sure they will have suitable accommodations beginning in late spring, and that the transition to their new living arrangements will be as smooth as possible.

“We feel we’re making good progress,” Blaguszewski said.

UMass plans to tear down North Village and Lincoln Apartments and build two new student housing apartment complexes in their place. A public-private partnership for the projects is being sought.

The exact design and who will construct the new apartments are still being determined, Blaguszewski said.

To get the 101 families — many of whom are international graduate students — into new homes, UMass has been connecting with local property managers. These discussions determined that three complexes, all along North Pleasant Street north of the campus, are most suitable to meet the needs of most, if not all, of the families.

Those apartment complexes are Presidential Apartments, which at 950 North Pleasant St. is the closest to North Village; Crestview Apartments at 1001 North Pleasant; and Brandywine Apartments, located behind Puffton Village at 1040 North Pleasant St.

“We’re in the process of working up appropriate agreements that people would sign as tenants of these apartments,” Blaguszewski said.

Open houses were held at each site Nov. 15, and between 39 and 44 families attended each one to see firsthand what the apartments are like, he said.

The next step is to gather preference data forms, or compile an inventory of needs, such as how many bedrooms each family wants, whether they want ground floor or upper-level apartments, and whether there are other specific wishes. For instance, some families have built friendships and may want to continue to live near each other.

Blaguszewski said these forms should be back by Dec. 4 in advance of another round of meetings with tenants later in December.

“We will then determine where each family will be assigned through this preference process,” Blaguszewski said. “We need to look at the inventory and what their particular circumstances are.”

Blaguszewski said the university may not be able to accommodate each family’s needs exactly but will try to meet most of their expectations.

One thing that is certain is families with elementary school-age children will continue to live in the part of Amherst where their children can remain at Wildwood School on Strong Street.

By February, all living arrangements are expected to be finalized.

Sugarloaf Estates in Sunderland also could host some families, though this will only happen if such a request is made by a family.

UMass officials have met individually with 100 of the 101 families and informed them that they will continue to pay the rents they are currently paying, while the university will pay for utilities. 

Blaguszewski said the relocation for North Village tenants is a university-wide effort that involves residential life staff, the university relations team and legal advisers, among others.

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