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First floor layout of Highland woods.

A two-bedroom unit.

Ansari, Wolahan and Ogden answer questions.

Williamstown Senior Housing Project Eyes 2016 Completion

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
11:12PM / Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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Bilal Ansari, second from left, Mollye Wolahan and Elton Ogden, right, speak with neighbors of the proposed Highland Woods project.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The 40 units of senior housing planned off Southworth Street is expected to be completed in time for the closure of the Spruces Mobile Home Park in 2016.

"We will be done with this project and ready to move in by then," said Marc Sternick, vice president and senior project architect at Dietz & Company Architects of Springfield. He said from the time the company gets a project (in this case, mid-November) it takes about a year to complete all the construction documents.

"We intend do be done with all of that in July."

Dubbed "Highland Woods," the development is the initiative of a Higher Ground, Berkshire Housing Development Corp., the Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development and Williamstown Elderly Housing. It is being built on four acres of land donated by Williams College north of Proprietor's Field, another senior housing complex.

Allegrone Construction has been selected as the construction manager and will break ground in July. Sternick said the construction end will take about 13 months.

Preliminary drawings of the development were unveiled on Wednesday night to a small crowd at Williamstown Elementary School.

The three-story structure will have 32 one-bedroom units and eight two-bedroom units, sized 612 square feet and 843 square feet, respectively.

The east and west wings will be connect from a central lobby area; each wing will have five single units and two doubles. The second floor will have a large centralized community room that will jut out over the entrance creating a portico for dropping people off.

At the ends of each wing will be a 14 by 14 sunroom, envisioned with floor to ceiling windows looking toward Proprietor's Field, which will share a large grassy area with the new development. The third floor will only have units on the north side with a gabled roof toward Proprietor's Field. "The only part that will pop up to a full three stories is the elevator and lobby and the sun rooms," said Sternick.

He said sunlight was an important factor in the design of the building and large windows will be used throughout the structure to naturally light rooms. The building will also be designed for net zero energy use — walls will be a foot thick, windows triple-paned and solar panels will generate electricity.

"What we hope to do is to make this building so efficient ... it makes as much energy as is used by the building," he said.

Also envisioned is a spot for a hairdresser or barber to visit, a health or wellness room and a coordinator for activities and wellness who would collaborate with the Harper Center.

Marc Sternick explains the layout the project for two attendees at the presentation.

The project still has to go through permitting, probably beginning in January.

In response to questions, Mollye Wolahan of the Women's Institute, Elton Ogden of Berkshire Housing, and Bilal Ansari of Higher Ground said the eligible applicants would make no more than 60 percent of the median income, or around $30,000 for an individual. The qualified applications would then be put in a pool.

Housing vouchers would be available for those with lower incomes.

The more money upfront to pay for the project, the lower the loan and, therefore, the lower the amount of rent required from the residents.

"We've been wonderfully supported but the town with funding support so we can keep the rent as affordable as possible," said Wolahan.

That includes $2.6 million pledged from the hazard mitigation grant being used to close the Spruces and $150,000 approved prior to the presentation from the Affordable Housing Trust. The non-profit also plans to ask town meeting for $100,000 from Community Preservation Act funds.

David Mangunn grants manager for Higher Ground, who suggested that if a wealthy benefactor would like to help the project, "we wouldn't turn anything down, I don't believe."

The presentation was recorded by WilliNet and will be rebroadcast.


Tags: affordable housing,   Higher Ground,   senior housing,   Spruces,   

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