Permit applications filed for proposed Lenox hotel, event center

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LENOX — The Mahida Hospitality Group has applied for permits to build its proposed 100-suite Lenox Manor Hotel and Event Center at the site of the Magnuson Hotel, which would be demolished if the Zoning Board of Appeals authorizes the project.

The application seeks two special permits and site plan approval to replace the dilapidated 120-room motel at 130 Pittsfield Road, formerly an Econo Lodge and originally built in 1964 as a Holiday Inn.

"There can be no doubt that the current buildings are beyond their useful life, both in their functional use and physical condition," the application states. "The building has been in need of emergency structural repairs, is not energy efficient, and does not meet the state of the art systems for fire protection, handicapped accessibility and other modern amenities."

An initial hearing is slated for 8:30 p.m. April 20 at Town Hall.

The hotel is expected to be affiliated with Marriott as a Residence Inn or with Hilton's Homewood Suites. Plans include an indoor swimming pool and a small food service area for guests.

The adjoining 14,400 square-foot Event Center, connected to the hotel by an enclosed, heated pedestrian walkway, could host up to 500 people. It would have its own lobby, a porch overlooking a courtyard and a hilltop space where outdoor gatherings could be held in season, as well as a large meeting room, three smaller conference rooms, bathrooms and kitchen facilities.

The center is depicted as a key aspect of the proposal and as the first of its kind in the Berkshires, according to David Carpenter, director of administration for the Mahida family group, headed by Vijay Mahida.

Billed as Lenox Manor, the center would help the town and the county become more of a year-round destination for corporate and association meetings as well as for weddings and other social gatherings targeted to New York and Boston area residents, the application states. Other lodging facilities would benefit from events attracting many more visitors than the attached hotel could accommodate.

The overall project is expected to cost between $22 million and $24 million, including $15 million for construction, plus engineering, legal and other related expenses as well as interest on locally led bank financing. It would employ numerous local subcontractors, trade workers, consultants and professionals. Plans call for 25 full-time equivalent staffers in its second year, the majority year-round, by year two of operation.

Anticipated lodging tax and property tax revenue for Lenox should exceed $355,000, the application indicates.

An outline of the Lenox Manor project was first unveiled by Mahida late last year.

The voluminous application submitted to the town includes a survey, architectural and landscaping plans, grading, drainage, erosion control, fire protection and lighting details.

The accompanying traffic study report and municipal impact statement describe the proposed improvements as satisfying state Department of Transportation requirements. Hotel parking spaces total 108, two more than the town requires. The Event Center would have 169 spaces, also two more than required.

Replacing the current two-story flat roof structure would be a three-story, sloped roof design with a maximum height of just under 50 feet.

The increased height would allow the facility to be built on a footprint "only moderately larger than the existing Magnuson Hotel footprint," according to the application. "Because of the topography and the distance from Pittsfield Road, the building's height and mass will be in conformity with the character of the neighborhood."

A requested height waiver exempts the hotel from the standard two-story, 35-foot limitation. The ZBA can allow buildings up to 50 feet high in the commercial zone where the facility would be sited, as supported by a Massachusetts Land Court ruling last year.

The application describes the proposal as serving community needs because of tourism's central role in the Lenox economy.

The absence of a modern, branded All-Suites product in the Berkshires puts the county at a disadvantage to other areas of New England that offer the option, the developer contends.

Because of the cost and the space needed for such projects, the application adds, "it is unlikely that a product of this type will be replicated in the Berkshires in the foreseeable future. Therefore, Lenox will have an advantage of being the first in the Berkshires with this type of offering on an upscale, branded basis, and the advantage will be long-lasting."

The developer said the project would not impact town services and utilities, nor would it alter the character of the mixed-use neighborhood in an area designated for hotel and public assembly use.

Construction of the project would yield a "dramatic and positive change in the aesthetic impact of the existing hotel," the document adds.

"While appropriate in its era, the flat roof, visually mundane, out of date and underutilized motel is currently a detriment to the neighborhood," the application states. "In its present condition, it is out of place with the adjacent businesses, all of which have been improved recently."

"The new building has a New England-style design and is intended to complement the existing buildings in the immediate area as well as the proposed building at Brushwood Farm."

Developer Joseph Toole's 92-room, $8.3 million, four story Courtyard by Marriott is under construction at Brushwood Farm with a hotel height of 48 feet, 6 inches.

Both Toole and Mahida have applied for special tax agreements, but the required decision by town meeting voters is not expected until next fall as the Select Board continues to craft a set of policy guidelines to cover any and all tax abatement proposals.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.

Lenox Manor at a glance . . .

Property Owner: Magnuson Hotel, Shivam Realty, LLC, managed by Sweta Pandya

Hotel Applicant: 130 Pittsfield-Lenox Road, LLC, a Mahida family company, now leasing the property and holding a purchase-and-sale agreement

Manager: Pravin Mahida, brother of Vijay Mahida

Project Architect: Robert E. Harrison, Berkshire Design, Great Barrington

Landscape Architect: Robert T. Akroyd, Greylock Design Associates, Lenox

Civil Engineer/Planner: James Scalise, SK Design Group, Pittsfield

Traffic Engineer: Fuss & O'Neill, West Springfield

Attorneys: William E. and Michael J. Martin, Martin & Oliveira, Pittsfield

Current Mahida Properties: Marriott's Fairfield Inn & Suites, the recently approved, 88-room Berkshire Hotel, and Days Inn, all in Great Barrington, and the Hilton Garden Inn on Routes 7 and 20 in Pittsfield


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