Phyllis McGuire | View from the Village: Affordable housing complex attractive option for seniors

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Editors note: The opening of half of the Highland Woods complex has been delayed because of recent damage from a ruptured pipe.

WILLIAMSTOWN — "If you build it they will come." For me, that quote from the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams" came to mind as I watched people flow into Williamstown's new affordable housing complex for seniors.

A recent open house held Highland Woods drew people from near and far, including those I spoke to from North Adams, Adams, Pittsfield, Great Barrington, Bennington as well as Williamstown.

An elderly married couple came out of curiosity, like me.

"We own a home in Williamstown, and are happy there," the husband said,"but we want to see what Highland Woods looks like."

A woman from Pittsfield, who identified herself as Gloria, was obviously too young to be eligible for senior housing. I, therefore, asked if she was just accompanying the elderly woman with her.

"No, she's here for me. She's my adviser," Gloria said with a smile. "I'm thinking about my future. I knew about Highland Woods from the newspapers. It's in a nice place to live ... and the rents are good."

Located at the end of Southworth Street, Highland Woods is within walking distance of the Williamstown Council on Aging senior center (Harper Center) and close by to downtown and Williams College, which donated a 40-acre parcel of land on which Highland Woods was built.

Preference for occupancy in the 40 unit three-story building is being given to people who were dislocated when the Spruces Mobile Home Park in Williamstown was ravaged by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.

Twenty apartments at Highland Woods have been rented already, 11 of which are going to Sprucians, said Kristin Coyne, of the leasing department of Berkshire Housing Development Corp., a private nonprofit organization that is managing Highland Woods.

Coyne told those attending the open house that rent for a one-bedroom apartment ranges from $703 to $842 and rent for a two-bedroom apartment ranges from for $836 to $1,011. She emphasized that rent includes parking, electricity, heat, air conditioning and hot water.

Eligibility is restricted to seniors whose income falls within certain limits.

Among the Sprucians I met, one was still living at the Spruces Mobile Home Park, which will be permanently closed on Feb. 29. "I've lived at the Spruces for 30 years. Now there are only eight of us left," she said.

Though she likes Highland Woods, she pointed out that it does lack some of the features she enjoyed at the Spruces: washer and dryer in bathroom, dishwasher in kitchen and private lawn where she planted a garden.

According to Mark, a representative of Berkshire Housing who was leading tours of the building, a garden/lawn will be planted between Highland Woods and the adjacent Proprietors Field, a subsidized senior housing development.

And residents will be able to use the elevator to reach a laundry room and community room on the second floor of Highland Woods.

When I spoke to Dorothy, a former Sprucian, she had just come out of the apartment at Highland Woods she is scheduled to move into by end of February. "It's nice," she said, but I don't know if I will be able to fit all my stuff into it. I'll be able to tell better what I can do with the space once I get my furniture here.'

From what I observed at the open house, people in general were favorably impressed with Highland Woods. The kitchens are equipped with new well-known brand appliances set on a tile floor, generous counter space and cabinets. The bathroom also has a tile floor, and safety grab bars have been installed. All the rooms are painted white, and windows look out on peaceful scenic views.

A friend of mine is thinking of relocating to Highland Woods, but was unable to attend the open house. I suggested she call Berkshire Housing Development Corp. (413) 499-1630 for up-to- the-minute information.

Time will tell if my friend will be among renters who turn the currently empty apartments at Highland Woods into cozy homes.

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown.


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