Great Barrington hotel project tweaked to cut rooms, preserve more of Searles building


GREAT BARRINGTON — The developer of a proposed new hotel at the site of the former Searles Middle School has tweaked his plan, reducing the overall size of the project and preserving more of the building's exterior.

Vijay Mahida is seeking a special permit to construct a $24 million hotel on the Bridge Street site. The revised plans call for 88 rooms and would retain the four outer walls of the main structure, according to blueprints on file at Town Hall. The previous plan was for a 95-room hotel and would have demolished all but the building's facade.

The plan still calls for gutting the interior of the main building. The Searles annex, as well as the former Mike Alphonso gymnasium, remain slated for demolition. The annex will be rebuilt as a swimming area with an indoor pool.

This new configuration retains a higher percentage of the school's architecture, although the multi-leveled interior is gone.

The Selectboard will continue its special permit hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Monument Mountain Regional High School.

Town counsel has stated clearly that the board will have the option to approve or deny the project based at least in part on how extensive they believe the developers have worked to retain portions of the 100-year-old structure.

A town bylaw adopted in 2014 sets a limit of 45 rooms in new hotel development, but it also grants an exemption to projects that use structures of historical significance.

Other considerations the board can consider include the potential traffic impacts, the potential tax income (estimated at $450,000) and the effect on the neighborhood.

The initial hearing before the board featured a number of contentious comments from residents opposed to the original plan. But some of that opponents may have been quieted by the latest changes.

A group of residents calling themselves the Save Searles School Committee already have weighed in on Facebook as approving the latest proposal.

The Selectboard, however, have the final say, They may deliver it on Wednesday, though the hearing can also be postponed or continued if the board believes it needs more information.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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