Monday November 5, 2012

LEE -- A $2.7 million downtown affordable housing rehabilitation project should be ready for new and returning tenants by next summer, according to the developer.

Berkshire Housing Develop ment Corp. is currently renovating the Consolati building at 57 Main St., with completion scheduled for June -- weather permitting -- according to BHDC Executive Director Elton Ogden.

"We're upgrading the electrical system installing sprinklers, making repairs to the heating system and putting in a new boiler," Ogden said.

He added, "We're installing new energy-efficient windows that will make a big difference."

The extreme makeover for the 16 one- and two-bedroom apartments in the upper two floors of the building is being done one floor at a time. Currently the remaining tenants are occupying all eight second-floor apartments, as the contractor, A-J Schnopp Jr. Construction Inc. of Dalton, renovates the third floor.

The tenants will temporarily occupy the upper apartments when work begins on the second floor, Ogden noted.

The first floor commercial space will continue to be occupied by Country Lady Antiques and Gifts, the Upstairs Base ment consignment shop, and, coming soon, Meow and Growl. Later this month, the pet supply store will relocate from West Park Street to the space vacated in July by the closing of Lee Power Equipment.

A combination of state funding and private loans is paying for a project town officials and local business leaders view as crucial to Lee's downtown revitalization effort.

"Almost every building [on Main Street] is a combination of commercial and residential and we need affordable housing," said David Bruce, president of Lee Bank, one of the project's financiers.

The Consolati building will be the second Main Street block to undergo extensive renovation as part of a rejuvenated downtown Lee.

In June 2011, local businessman Michael Mc Manmon completed a $3.7 million restoration of the Baird & Benton block at 40-50 Main St.

The project created classrooms and office space in the upper two floors -- vacant for more than 50 years -- for McManmon's Lee-based College Intern ship Program. The first floor remained commercial space that includes a cafe, art gallery, tanning salon and manicure shop.

In addition, the town last year built a new parking lot behind the Baird and Benton block to attract more visitors downtown and several new businesses have opened on Main Street the past two years.

"Over and over, I hear good things from visitors about what a great, viable Main Street we have," said Pamela Loring, co-owner of Main Street's historic Morgan House Inn and restaurant.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.