$2.7M housing project in Lee on track for summer opening


LEE -- A $2.7 million affordable housing rehabilitation project is nearing the halfway mark and should be ready for tenants by late summer, according to the developer.

Elton Ogden, executive director of the Berkshire Housing Development Corp., said renovation of the Consolati building at 57 Main St. remains on budget and on schedule, given workers are renovating a Civil War-era building.

"The project has been incredibly devoid of surprises," he said, projecting the work would be completed by the end of August.

"This hasn't been a major gut; more like a remodeling job," added Jim Conner, project supervisor for the general contractor, A-J Schnopp Jr. Construction of Dalton.

The renovation mostly involves the interior of the three-story structure, with work being done one floor at a time on the 16 one- and two-bedroom apartments in the upper two floors.

The remaining tenants are occupying all eight second-floor apartments as the contractor renovates the third floor. By May 1, the tenants will temporarily occupy the upper apartments when work begins on the second floor, Ogden noted.

"We're very fortunate some of the tenants moved in with friends and relatives until the project is completed," he said. "Everybody who was living here is expected to come back."

In all, 13 of the 16 apartments were occupied when the project began last fall, Ogden added.

The first-floor commercial space will continue to be occupied by Country Lady Antiques and Gifts and the pet supply store, Meow and Growl. A third store, The Upstairs Basement, is vacating the building by March 15.

Owner Rick Clayson announced last week the consignment shop his mother, Helen "Bunny" Larson, started 40 years ago, was closing due to the tough economic times.

BHDC plans to renovate the 3,000 square feet of retail space before formally seeking a new business for the prime downtown storefront.

"I have probably had five people express interest in the space and we haven't marketed it yet," Ogden said.

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

The Consolati building will be the second Main Street block to undergo extensive renovation within a two-year period.

In June 2011, local businessman Michael McManmon 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 Internship Program.

The first floor remained commercial space that includes a cafe, art gallery, tanning salon and manicure shop.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.


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