Planning Board gives swift endorsement to Lenox Manor project


LENOX — The Planning Board has rolled out the red carpet for the Mahida family's Lenox Manor all-suites hotel and events center project, voting unanimously to endorse the project in record time for a major hospitality industry application.

It took the five-member board barely an hour Tuesday night to hear a detailed presentation by project designers and quickly agree after a brief discussion to send an advisory letter of recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Typically, the Planning Board has held multiple meetings stretching over weeks and months when presented with a hotel application, and it has delayed or withheld an endorsement several times.

The ZBA will have the final say on the application for special permits and site approval to demolish the run-down, 120-room Magnuson Hotel at 130 Pittsfield-Lenox Road (Routes 7 & 20) and replace it with a 100-suite extended stay inn and event facility that could host up to 500 guests.

The board will meet at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in Town Hall to review the joint application from Pravin Mahida, brother of hotel developer Vijay Mahida as well as the current owner of the site, Shivam Realty, and its local manager Sweta Pandya.

The new hotel, projected to cost up to $24 million, is likely to be branded as a Marriott Residence Inn or a Hilton Homewood Suites.

"It will be an asset for Lenox, a home run," said recently appointed Planning Board member John Tansey. The design of the facility, in harmony with the look of surrounding sites such as the Allegrone office complex, the Lenox Fit health club and the Arcadian Shop, also was praised by Chairman Kameron Spaulding and members Kate McNulty-Vaughan, Mark Smith and Thomas Delasco.

Project attorney William E. Martin of Martin & Oliveira, civil engineer and planner James Scalise of SK Design Group and landscape architect Robert Akroyd of Greylock Design Associates described the deteriorated condition of the Magnuson, built in 1964 as a Holiday Inn, and presented plans for a contemporary, New England-style complex on a similar footprint as the current hotel building.

They provided a detailed application that included a traffic study showing a minimal impact on the busy state highway, as well as improvements for stormwater drainage and snowmelt, and a clean bill of health on environmental factors. It would be set back from the road, just as the current hotel is, and would be hard to see by motorists because of its hillside topography.

Even though the hotel has not yet been branded, the locally friendly design of the three-story, sloped roof, clapboard hotel will not be altered by affiliation with a Marriott or Hilton, said David Carpenter, director of administration for the Mahida Family Hospitality Interests. He emphasized that the Lenox Manor concept is a take it-or-leave it proposition and that the requirement has been accepted by the international hotel companies that are negotiating with the Mahida group.

Since the hotel would offer only breakfast and a bar with light evening snacks for guests, the facility would be an economic boon for the town, project leaders pointed out. The Events Center, described as a first for Berkshire County, would increase visitation to the area in the shoulder and off seasons, with a positive spillover impact on other area inns and on downtown businesses.

The entire complex would employ about 25 people once it's completed and is projected to funnel at least $355,000 in yearly lodging tax and property tax revenue to the town.

Spaulding, the board chairman, said he would decline to vote since he is director of the Lenox Chamber of Commerce and the Mahida group is a member. Along with other board members, he suggested that the ZBA consider eliminating a few of the 277 parking spaces proposed for the inn and events center, since the application's total is slightly more than required by local zoning bylaws.

Following the 4-0 vote endorsing the project, Vijay Mahida said: "My family very much appreciates the Planning Board's unanimous support for our project and their kind comments about how well what our team has designed will benefit both the immediate neighborhood and Lenox overall."

"The Planning Board's prompt support is really a tribute to the work on this project of long-time town resident and former Select Board member Robert Akroyd," said Carpenter. "At every step of our design work, Robert guided us in how to create a project that fits well with various town planning documents, as well as with the architectural history and aura of Lenox."

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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