Select Board reviews second Housatonic School redevelopment proposal

207 Pleasant St., the location of the Housatonic School building. Photo via Google Maps.

Greater Barrington— The second of two redevelopment proposals for the former Housatonic School was considered at the board meeting on Monday, November 7. The elementary school building, located at 207 Pleasant Street in Housatonic, was built in 1907 and has been vacant since its closure. down in 2003.

The first of two proposals, submitted by Arete Venture Partners LLC, was considered at the October 24 Select Board meeting.
The Nanuet, NY company plans to build 14 residential apartments on the second and third floors of the building, including four 650 square foot studios that will be priced at affordable housing rates. In addition, the company intends to install 5,500 square feet of open concept commercial space.

Meanwhile, WDM Properties of North Adams and Pittsfield wants to turn the building into a 10-unit apartment complex, with rents set at $1,765 per month. At the Nov. 7 meeting, company project manager David Carver told the Select Board that each apartment would be 1,200 square feet and would include two bedrooms, a kitchen, washer and dryer.

“Our proposal involves the creation of 10 two-bedroom apartments and responds to Berkshire County’s strong need for quality, market-priced housing,” Carver told the Select Board. “Over the past 50 years, the rate of rental housing production has lagged far behind the production of heavily subsidized low-cost housing, as regulated by the federal government. This accommodation is usually defined by [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] serving households whose income is less than 50% of the region’s median income. We propose in this project to serve residential household incomes up to but not more than 100% of the median household income. This cap is proposed due to the inclusion of municipal funds, development budget and the need to reserve units for this target market. »

Carver said apartment rent will be no more than 30% of the region’s median household income, including utilities. He said HUD reports the area’s median household income is $92,100, which he says would yield a maximum monthly rent of $2,300, which includes utilities. “However, to remain competitive in the rental market and better serve the target market, we are offering starting rents of $1,765 including heating,” Carver said. “Tenants would pay for their own electricity and air conditioning which is estimated at $125 per month, for a total housing cost of $1,890 per month.”

The company proposes to create 20 parking spaces all around the building, i.e. two parking spaces per dwelling. The company’s parking proposal includes a handicap accessible parking unit.

Selection committee member Garfield Reed asked Carver if any of the apartments would be handicap accessible. “Because it’s only 10 units, it’s not necessary and we don’t provide that,” Carver said. “If there were 12 or more units, all common areas [on each floor] would need to be handicapped accessible. If there were 20 or more units, at least one unit out of 25% must be accessible. The [units] will all be of a good size, but accessibility is limited by building access.

Carver estimates that the total budget for the project would be $3,500,000. “The reuse of this building will require the use of historic tax credits and the grant offered by the city in the RFP, in conjunction with private bank financing and developer equity,” Carver said.

To finance part of the project, the company received a proposal from Berkshire Bank Senior Vice President D. Matthew Emprimo for a multi-advance commercial real estate loan of up to $1,500,000 over a 10-year term.

Emprimo added in the proposal that “Berkshire Bank also has a strong interest in being the investor for the $1 million tax credit on this project. The negotiation and underwriting of the tax credit price would take place during the bank’s loan due diligence process. »

Vice President Leigh Davis asked Carver how much the company plans to claim historic tax credits and what the timeline for claiming the credits looks like. “That’s probably the hardest part of setting up the finances,” Carver said. “Usually it takes so long to do it. We learned from our consultant that projects that are shovel-ready and meet the criteria move forward much, much faster. That’s going to be critical in this project.

Carver said the company could get between 20% and 25% of the total project cost in historical tax credits and is expected to raise about $1 million from credit sources. “Are you confident enough that you will receive these tax credits?” Vice President Davis asked Carver. “And if for some reason you don’t receive them, how will that affect your overall budget?”

“Certainly that would be a problem,” Carver said. “If the funding comes neither from our local bank nor from tax credits, yes, the project is in jeopardy.”

Vice President Davis asked if the company would return to the city to make up any shortfall in funding for the project if it did not receive historic tax credits.

“I don’t know how realistic that is,” Carver said. “I would be very uncomfortable going into town unless she had the money to do so. Personally, I would feel uncomfortable asking that.

The select committee is due to discuss the two proposed projects at its next regular meeting on Monday, November 21 at 6 p.m.

Find WDM Properties’ proposal to redevelop the former Housatonic school here.

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