LENOX -- Two major new building projects, at Canyon Ranch and Lenox Commons, have green lights from town boards, reflecting a surge in the area's real estate market for condominiums.

At Canyon Ranch, 19 high-end units are to be built on a 5.5-acre site on the 119-acre grounds of the famed wellness resort. At its most recent meeting, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted 5-0 to approve special permits and a height waiver for the development at 165 Kemble St., which has been proposed in various configurations, originally calling for 38 units, since it was originally approved by the ZBA in 1999.

Construction costs are projected at nearly $16 million, according to General Manager Reggie Cooper. The one- and two-bedroom apartments, and two penthouse suites, would sell for $1 million to $2.5 million to 3 million in the three-story building.

Canyon Ranch has a waiting list of 40 prospective purchasers for the project, which is targeted for completion in about 16 months, Cooper told The Eagle.

A presentation led by attorney Philip Heller was followed by a strong written endorsement of the project from Gregory Whitehead, president of the Bishop Estate Association, which represents homeowners on a set of neighboring properties. Since the development requires no new curb cuts and uses existing access driveways, it has "minimal impacts on Kemble Street and the neighborhood," he wrote.

"Canyon Ranch continues to be an excellent neighbor to the Bishop Estate and a positive force in the community," Whitehead stated. Letters of support also came in from the Lenox Planning Board, which had reviewed the project in detail last month, and from Fire Chief Daniel Clifford.

Cooper told the ZBA members that the newest version of the plans focused on a pre-existing, cleared area that allows for underground parking, an enclosed walkway to the Canyon Ranch resort facilities, and consolidation of the condo units into a single building instead of two, as originally designed.

"It's a much more efficient use of the property," he noted, since more open space is preserved. Owners could rent out their units, Cooper explained, but most are expected to use them seasonally, with few if any year-round occupants.

The overall project is to be valued at $20 million to $22 million, he added, yielding about $290,000 a year in property taxes for the town. Any rentals would produce lodging-tax revenues.

"We're a tourist economy, and this will bring in families who will use our restaurants, shops, and cultural facilities in town," said Heller. In seeking a waiver from the town's 35-foot height restriction, he noted that the Canyon Ranch mansion tops out at 48 feet, while the adjoining spa is 46 feet high. The condo building would be 44 feet above ground.

The project, to be operated and maintained by a condominium association, completes development on the former Bellefontaine property built in 1897. It was the first to be transformed into a resort under the town's Great Estates bylaw designed to preserve Gilded Age properties and make them economically sustainable. Canyon Ranch opened on Oct 1, 1989.

Meanwhile, following a recent procedural approval by the Planning Board, a second, 12-unit condo development is set for the Lenox Commons mixed-use residential and commercial complex just north of town.

The $5 million, four-building Lenox Woods South project, previously permitted by the ZBA, already has seven prospective buyers at prices from $399,000 to $419,500, said Dave Ward president of LD Associates, which owns Lenox Commons as well as three other condo developments from Pittsfield to Great Barrington.

Lenox Woods South would be completed in about two years, he added, explaining that he builds after purchasers are lined up -- "that's how we stay in business, no building on spec."

Ward said that while he's not sure it's a "boom" yet, the condo market, specifically for new construction, has surged in recent months. In addition, his commercial spaces at Lenox Commons are filled, with Berkshire Health Systems set to open a new primary care center in the development's rear building around mid-February. 

To contact Clarence Fanto:

cfanto@yahoo.com

or (413) 637-2551.

On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


Condo projects snapshot

LD Associates, headed by Dave Ward, has four major condominium developments completed or under construction from Pittsfield to Great Barrington:

  • Lenox Woods South: Four buildings, three units each, at $399,000 to $419,500 per apartment, to be completed by early 2016.

  • Lenox Woods North: Nearly completed, 27 out of 29 units sold at $359,500 to $399,500.

  • Pines at Bousquet (Pittsfield): 90 units built, 87 sold, 6 more due for construction, $429,000 to $459,000.

  • Devon Meadow (Lee): 14 units completed, 11 sold; 6 more to be built. $775,000-$850,000.

  • Barrington Brook (Great Barrington): Construction beginning, 44 units to be completed by early 2017, 14 prospective buyers so far. $500,000 average price.

    Source: LD Associates