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HAP Housing eyes $21M makeover for lodging house

NORTHAMPTON — HAP Housing has an option to buy the 58-room Northampton Lodging on Pleasant Street for $1.6 million with future plans to tear it down and construct a five-story building with 78 studio and one-bedroom apartments it would rent at both affordable and market rates.

After it purchases the property by the end of the year, HAP intends to manage it in its existing condition until financing is secured to construct the new 73,000-square-foot building and enough time is given to relocate residents who currently live at Northampton Lodging, according to plans HAP filed with the city’s Office of Planning and Sustainability on Wednesday.

Tenants who qualify will be offered apartments in the new building at about the same rent they paid at the time of their relocations, the application states.

HAP officials estimate the total project cost at $21.4 million, with the building costing between $12 million and $15 million. It could take as long as three years to complete after the organization acquires the 129 Pleasant St. site. The new building would feature commercial retail space on the ground floor and a mix of both affordable and market-rate apartments on the top floors.

Ward 4 Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra said Wednesday that she was impressed by the plans, which HAP officials shared with her earlier this spring.

“I’m really excited about the plans they told me about, particularly in the context of the conversation happening about the future of Pleasant Street,” Sciarra said, referring to the city’s efforts to plan the development of the corridor. “That that space has a bright new future is really good news.”

HAP, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in western Massachusetts, is asking the city to expedite review of its $300,000 request for Community Preservation Act funds to help offset a small portion of the cost to buy Northampton Lodging from Bowditch LLC. The Community Preservation Committee agreed last week to consider the funding application outside of its normal funding schedule. The project is expected to be considered at the committee’s June 18 meeting.

“I think it’s a positive development on many different levels,” Mayor David J. Narkewicz said Wednesday night.

“That property has been on the market for quite a considerable amount of time and Northampton Lodging has been an important piece in terms of affordable housing stock in the city,” he said.

The plan to rehouse current tenants is certainly better for the tenants than if another developer bought the building for another use and evicted them, he said. In its application, HAP notes that tenants at Northampton Lodging are at risk for homelessness.

Narkewicz said he also likes the idea of having commercial space on the first floor.

“I think mixing housing and commercial development really fits in with the larger vision of expanding Pleasant Street as an extension of the downtown,” he said.

In its application, HAP said it is negotiating with the public-private lending institution Community Economic Development Assistance Corp. for a loan to buy the property, and the CPC funds are critical to reducing the amount it has to borrow.

The project calls for 28 studio apartments and 50 one-bedroom apartments, 4,500 square feet of retail space, four handicapped-accessible apartments, tenant laundry room and meeting space, and a property management office. HAP would rent 58 units on a sliding scale to people and families earning at or below different levels of the area’s median income. The remaining 20 units would not be income restricted.

Northampton Lodging is a three-story, 11,700-square-foot building constructed in 1967 as a dormitory for the former Northampton Commercial College. The building currently consists of 58 single-room rentals that are rented weekly or monthly. The tenant population has a mix of transient and long-term residents, with about 45 percent having moved into the building within the last two years and 19 percent having living there for more than a decade, according to HAP’s application.

Assuming it is successful in buying Northampton Lodging, HAP intends to work with social service providers to offer case management, job development and a range of counseling and other services to residents. It also plans to hire a full-time property manager to oversee the current and new building.

Once redevelopment financing is secured, HAP will provide temporary relocation benefits to eligible tenants at an estimated cost of $250,000. These tenants would be moved — with HAP paying moving expenses and rent differential — to single-room occupancy, studio and one-bedroom apartments in Northampton and nearby communities while the new building is constructed. Once complete, the tenants would be offered apartments in the new building at about the same rent they paid at the time of their relocations.

Narkewicz said Northampton used to have more boarding house-style buildings, including Shaw’s Motel and Augie’s on Bridge Street.

“But they’ve largely been disappearing. It’s kind of an older model you don’t see much anymore,” he said. “And this is a conversion to a newer model, but it will still ensure that it stays affordable into the future.”

Financing for the project is expected to come from many sources including CEDAC, low-income housing tax credits, the state Department of Housing and Community Development affordable housing funds, and bank loans. HAP also intends to use CPA money from the city and request $150,000 from its Community Development Block Grant allocation.

Staff writer Rebecca Everett contributed to this story.

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