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Proposed downtown Greenfield hotel begins permitting process

The owners of the building that is home to Wilson’s Department Store on Main Street in Greenfield are still trying to build a hotel and banquet facility in the upper floors of the building. (Recorder file/Paul Franz)

The owners of the building that is home to Wilson’s Department Store on Main Street in Greenfield are still trying to build a hotel and banquet facility in the upper floors of the building. (Recorder file/Paul Franz)

GREENFIELD — The upscale hotel with banquet facilities proposed for the heart of downtown will begin the town’s permitting process this week.

As conceived now, the 62-room hotel and banquet hall, which would be built into the upper three floors above Wilson’s Department Store, will need a special permit from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals before construction can begin.

The plan is to restore the Wilson’s block to its historic uses as a combination hotel and retail anchor for Main Street, a configuration it hasn’t seen since the mid-1960s. A new 13,227-square-foot addition will also be built.

The project promises the return of an urban amenity the town hasn’t seen for a half-century. It also calls for restoring the building’s century-old brick facade.

Wilson’s President Kevin O’Neil, a partner of American House LLC, which owns the block that extends from Wilson’s to Taylor’s Tavern, said the hotel will be upscale with a banquet hall that could be leased by individuals, companies and private groups.

American House LLC envisions completing the project within three years, if all goes well with permitting and financing.

American House is the name of one of the earliest hotels to operate on the site.

O’Neil said he loves the idea of bringing a hotel back to the downtown, especially above Wilson’s, because one was located there from 1882 to the early 1960s, when Hotel Greenfield went out of business.

He said the hotel would target patrons like parents visiting children attending area private schools, as well as those traveling to Greenfield to attend special events and attractions like the Green River Festival each July.

Greenfield has also seen a need for large banquet facilities in recent years.

“First, I want to make clear that Wilson’s and American House LLC are two different entities,” said O’Neil. “The department store rents its space from American House.”

O’Neil said that Wilson’s is not closing and will stay where it is, with the exception of its third floor, which includes the Abbott Gallery. Items currently on display on the third floor will be moved.

“We think this is going to be a good thing for the town and for business,” he said.

Wilson’s will occupy three floors, which will consist of the basement floor, street-level floor and second floor. The hotel will occupy the third floor and the two floors above.

The upper floors of the store have been largely vacant over the years, and much of the former hotel space, including its rooms and corridors, are still intact, though they would undergo extensive renovation.

O’Neil said people will be able to stay in a hotel located in the heart of Greenfield’s downtown, shop at Wilson’s and other downtown stores, eat at a variety of restaurants the town now offers, and attend different events and activities.

He said nothing will change for the businesses leasing space in the building.

O’Neil said the new building will be built with its main entrance on Chapman Street, where the (former) GCTV cellar hole is and where the apartment building that was destroyed by fire several years ago stood. He said that is where the entrance to the hotel would be and the new building would connect to the Wilson’s building. There would be an entrance into Wilson’s from the hotel.

“This is definitely a positive thing for Greenfield and its economy and it should help draw even more people here,” said O’Neil.

He said once financing and permits are in place, the project is expected to take about 18 months to complete.

The ZBA will meet at the police station on High Street at 7 p.m. on Thursday and will begin its review of the hotel proposal at 7:15.

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