GREAT BARRINGTON — With renters taking up residence in the 45-unit Bentley Apartments affordable housing complex downtown, planners now turn their attention to what comes next at the 8-acre site, a former blighted brownfield at Bridge Street and Bentley Road.
The site, adjacent to the Housatonic River, will have a new riverfront park that will be opened to the public in the spring, and discussions will begin in coming months for the construction of more affordable units on 2 acres along the Bridge Street portion of the property.
“I expect we will engage the public in a process early in the new year and then roll out a few designs,” said Allison Marchese, executive director of the Community Development Corp. of South Berkshire, which purchased the property for $1 in 1999. “Our priorities right now are simply pre-development, which is securing agreements with partners and some essential pre-development funds.”
Recent construction along the northern and eastern perimeters of the property has raised questions among residents. That work is being done by the town and consists of new sidewalks. Once completed, the sidewalks will wrap around Bridge Street and along Bentley Road, terminating at the new Bentley Apartments.
Bentley Apartments, a $17.8 million project, opened in May and consist of three buildings, three stories each, on the south end of the property. They are built in the Regency style. All the units are now either occupied or accounted for.
The future units on Bridge Street likely will look much different, Marchese said.
“Because they would face other houses in the neighborhood, we’d like them to meld with the neighborhood a little bit more,” Marchese said. “We want to keep it to two stories so that it blends in with the houses that are there.”
As it did with the Bentley Apartments, the community development corporation hopes to partner with the Pittsfield-based developer and rental management company Berkshire Housing Development Corp. on the future units.
Much of the Bentley Road side of the property will remain as it is today, with a fenced-off berm within which toxic soil has been capped in compliance with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The site once housed New England Log Homes, a house kit company. The soil was polluted with dioxins, pentachlorophenol (PCP), metals, petroleum hydrocarbons and asbestos-containing materials.
The remediation work has been completed. The DEP continues to monitor the site.
As for the riverfront park, it will make up a little more than 2 acres. A path already has been constructed, and 500 native plants have been set up under the guidance of a wetlands specialist and the town’s Conservation Commission.
The park will include benches. The old tower on the site, a remnant from the site’s industrial past, might be incorporated in some fashion, pending input from the Great Barrington Historical Society, Marchese said. The future park and the rest of the undeveloped acreage remain fenced off.
Marchese said the park will be opened to the public in May, beginning with an unveiling ceremony.