Blueline Design

Community Development Board Clears Housing Project

Berkshire Eagle, By Dick Lindsay, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

City officials have given the green light to another downtown redevelopment project.

The Community Development board Tuesday night approved plans for 11 new housing units at the former union Federal Savings Bank on North Street, across from the Beacon Cinema project already under construction.

However, Anthony Doyle, attorney for the developer, David Kahn, said two of those apartments will now be designated as affordable and the rest market-rate.

Doyle said his client's change-of-heart was in response to the board questioning the lack of affordable units during a review of the project last month.

Board member Sheila B. Irvin said she was "appreciative" of Kahn changing his mind.

"It's important to have affordable housing throughout the downtown," Irvin said.

"David feels he can live with this," Doyle said after Tuesday's vote. "It was also easier to designate (two of) them affordable, rather than put the numbers together to justify a waiver."

Kahn was seeking a waiver from the affordable housing requirement, a request Doyle withdrew prior to board approval.

When the project is completed, the second and third floors will each have four two-bedroom apartments with the fourth floor having a pair of one- or two- bedroom units.

Doyle also assured the board that the residential tenants will have more of a guarantee of long-term parking, another unresolved issue from the January meeting.

The developer had secured a one-year lease from the Crowne Plaza, but hotel policy prevented the management from promising the rental agreement would be renewed.

Doyle said the Crown Plaza will keep renewing the lease, as long a the developer keeps makes lease payments.

City zoning regulations require the parking be within 800 feet of the housing units and Doyle had said the hotel parking is 700 feet away.

However, John Galt, representing the First Church of Christ in Pittsfield, Congregational, was concerned the parking being that far away, tenants would use the church lot next door.

"We will do our best to inform our tenants not to park in the church lot, or anyone else's lot," said Doyle who even agreed with the suggestion that the residents sign an affidavit to that effect.

Kahn has already spent an estimated $800,000 to bring the 19th-century building up to code. He has begun converting the ground floor into one or two business spaces, because they are allowed by-right, according to Doyle.

The building at 38-48 North Street, originally had a mix of residential and commercial use for decades after it was erected in 1846. Union Federal took over the entire four-storey structure when bank official purchase it in the 1930s.

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