Great Barrington Selectboard backs 100 Bridge project — with conditions

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GREAT BARRINGTON — The Selectboard has endorsed — with conditions — the redevelopment of the former New England Log Homes site.

By a 4-0 vote Monday night, with Chairman Sean Stanton absent, the board issued a "positive recommendation" to the 100 Bridge project ahead of the developer's comprehensive permit hearing next week before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The Community Development Corp. of South Berkshire is scheduled to go before the ZBA at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at Town Hall on Main Street.

The CDC has proposed a combination of affordable and market rate housing, commercial and retail space augmented by a common green space and protected land on the 8-acre site along the Housatonic River on Bridge Street.

The board was generally pleased with the concept, but the endorsement came with eight conditions it wants the ZBA to consider should it grant the permit. Among the stipulations: locally or regionally owned businesses should occupy the commercial space; architecturally, the buildings are in keeping with the look of the downtown neighborhood; the common space is accessible, visible and properly maintained; and all the new housing units should be indistinguishable from one another.

"I can look at [the drawings] and immediately tell what's market rate and what's affordable," said Selectman Stephen Bannon.

"The last thing I want to do is ghetto-ize the affordable [units]," replied CDC Executive Director Tim Gellar.

In an overview of the estimated $32 million redevelopment, Gellar said the project would be built in phases, but in what order depends on receiving state funds toward the affordable housing and tenants being secured for the commercial aspect and condominiums.

The developer gave a conservative timetable of a four- to five-year complete build-out.

"The hardest part is getting started, once you get going," said project engineer Larry Boudreau. "The rest could take less time."

The CDC has had conversations with several prospective anchor tenants to occupy the main commercial building that would front Bridge Street, Gellar said.

"We have a bead on it," he said. "Once we get through the permit process, [the project] will be easier to market."

On Tuesday, Berkshire Co-op Market on Bridge Street told The Eagle relocating to 100 Bridge remains one of several options market officials are reviewing for a new, larger grocery store and cafe.

The CDC also reported that a recent traffic study concluded the project wouldn't adversely affect the intersections of Bridge Street with Main Street and Bentley Avenue, the dead-end road that borders the property.

Traffic consultant Tom Johnson said the study took into account, if built, the proposed hotel for the former Searles Middle School on Bridge Street.

The Selectboard is expected to further discuss — and possibly vote on — the hotel proposal at its Feb. 22 meeting.

In order to better control traffic flow, developers of 100 Bridge will request that stop signs be installed and Bentley and Humphrey Street, which also empties out onto Bridge Street.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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