Office building, affordable housing plans at Hadley hotel sites advance

EconoLodge hotel at 329 Russell St.


Staff Writer

HADLEY — Projects to bring a new office building and 51 affordable apartments to the Route 9 corridor, which would cause two existing hotels to close, continue to move toward development.

The Planning Board agreed Tuesday to schedule a site plan review hearing for Aug 16 at 6:45 p.m. to consider the office building proposed for 401 Russell St. by Amherst Development Associates, whose manager is Hampshire Hospitality President J. Curtis Shumway.

That project, a three-story, 40,500-square-foot building, would lead to the demolition of the Howard Johnson hotel.

“What is being planned is essentially a new office building in the place of the current motel building,” said Mike Gagnon, senior civil engineer with SLR consultants of Springfield.

Artist conceptions show a red brick building, similar in appearance to those in the Atwood Drive development in Northampton, situated along the state highway, with parking at the rear.

Shumway apprised planners of the redevelopment possibility last fall, noting that the 100-room hotel, which opened in 1966 and was expanded in the early 1990s, is no longer a “class A” property.

The development team for the office building is going before the town’s Conservation Commission on July 12 to resolve any issues with possible impacts on wetlands.

At the EconoLodge hotel at 329 Russell St., also a Hampshire Hospitality property, Valley Community Development Corp. is seeking conversion of the 63 rooms into 12 one-bedroom apartments with kitchens and 39 studio apartments with kitchens.

Laura Baker, real estate development director for Valley CDC, told the Select Board at a meeting last month that the best-case scenario would have the property converted and leasing by July 2024.

The next step, Baker said, is to submit a project eligibility letter to the Department of Housing and Community Development, and acquire the property in November. Municipal zoning hearings would commence in the winter, with a decision next spring, before state financing comes in.

The Select Board is expected to make a decision this month on whether to offer a letter of support that Baker said could help with the agency’s application.

While two hotels with 163 rooms between them could go away, the town’s hotels on Route 9 would still include the Courtyard by Marriott, Homewood Suites, Hampton Inn and Comfort Inn & Suites.

In addition, at 237-239 Russell St., the site of a hotel that was most recently a Rodeway Inn that has been closed during the pandemic, the Pioneer Valley Hotel Group could begin construction on a Towneplace by Marriott later this year. That 77-room, extended-stay hotel was approved by the Planning Board three years ago.

Kishore Parmar, vice president of the company, told planners that the hotel demolition and then construction is nearly ready to get underway.

“We’re hoping to start this year, but it could be another year’s extension (we need),” Parmar said. “If it gets too late, we want to start next spring.”

The Planning Board voted unanimously to extend the timeline for the project to get started until July 22, 2023.