Hotel plans move ahead slowly for Conz Street development in Northampton 

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 09-18-2023 3:52 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After holding two meetings on the issue, the Planning Board has yet to approve a special permit and plan for a proposed 109-room hotel and a 31-unit residential building at 115 Conz St., formerly the site of the Daily Hampshire Gazette office building.

Property owner Mansour Ghalibaf is looking to build a nearly 18,000-square-foot hotel that would carry the Home2 Suites by Hilton name, according to documents provided to the city in his application. Plans also show the residential building would be constructed closer to Conz Street, with the hotel at the back of the property.

The Planning Board is waiting for the Department of Public Works to approve a permit for a stormwater drainage system for the property, which is holding up the approval process.

In a document dated Aug. 24 and addressed to Berkshire Design Group, the architecture firm hired to design the two buildings, the DPW stated there were several questions that needed to be addressed before it could issue a stormwater permit. Those include whether the hotel allows proper access for emergency vehicles, a listed address that conflicted with neighboring Fairfield Inn (also owned by Ghalibaf), and whether the hotel in question would have a restaurant, which would require the installation of grease traps.

Berkshire Design Group responded to those concerns in a memorandum addressed to Planning Board Chairman George Kohout, saying that the Fairfield has an address of 115A Conz St., rather than 115, that the site had driving lanes that could accommodate emergency vehicles, and that the hotel would not have a  restaurant, offering only a continental breakfast.

That memorandum was dated Sept. 12, only two days before the next scheduled Planning Board meeting. According to Carolyn Misch, the city’s director of planning and sustainability, the DPW received a completed stormwater application from the architects last Friday, which was not enough time for the department to review the response and approve the stormwater permit in time for Thursday’s Planning Board meeting.

“The Planning Board cannot issue a permit until the DPW approves its stormwater permit,” Misch said. “It’s just an issue of timing.”

According to Rankin Holdings, the limited liability company established by Ghalibaf to conduct the building of the hotel, the project would be completed in two phases, the first being the building of the hotel and the second building the condominiums. The company also stated that building the property would triple the amount of vehicle traffic in the area.

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A presentation given to the Planning Board by Berkshire Design showed conceptual renderings of the condominiums planned for the property, showing the building at three stories high with an “L”-shape, a small front courtyard and trees planted at the entrance to the complex.

The completed project would bring the number of hotel rooms in the city to 440, making up for some of the rooms lost following the closure of the Clarion Hotel in 2015. At that time, there were 547 rooms in the city, whereas today there are 331 rooms.

City officials in February, in making a case for granting a tax break for the project, estimated the development would bring in $3.4 million in new tax revenue when complete, add 50 new jobs and increase consumer spending in Northampton by $4.5 million. Ghalibaf, however, withdrew his request for a tax break.

The Planning Board will look to finally issue an approval for the property during its next meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 28.

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

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