Winstanley plan could bode well for LenoxLENOX — Town officials are reviewing a “mini master plan” from a local businessman for the construction of a downtown office-retail complex designed to be a potential source of year-round activity that would reduce the town’s reliance on seasonal tourism.
The Windrose Center on 3.2 acres at the corner of Main and Franklin streets would provide much-needed parking spaces in the heart of town, as well as office spaces designed for professional tenants, such as physicians, lawyers and brokers, according to Nathan (Nate) Winstanley III.
Winstanley, president and creative director of Winstanley Associates, the advertising agency and media development company on Main Street, presented his plan at a joint meeting of the Selectmen, the Zoning and Planning boards and the Conservation and Historic commissions on Oct. 13.
No action was taken at the meeting, which will be followed during the next few months with submission of more details.
Winstanley said this week that the complex would probably more than $5 million to build as presented to the town. The proposed structures would total more than 42,660 square feet. He said that three years ago, after deciding he needed more office space to stay in business here, he and his architect brother, Michael Winstanley, started working on the plans. “I was also aware that I had a developable piece of property and that I needed to come up with a comprehensive master plan for it,” he said.
Now that he has gone public with his proposal, Winstanley said he still has many details to work out, including structural design and preparations for the long process of reviews by all of the boards and commissions. An amendment to the town zoning law might be required, which would involve public hearings and a vote by Lenox residents at the annual town meeting next May. The law was enacted in 1941 and has had only a few minor changes since.
The complex is to be named after Winstanley’s parents, Nathan Winstanley Jr. and the late Rose Montegani Winstanley.
Winstanley, a 25-year resident of Lenox, has proposed five 2-story buildings and a 2-story addition to his Meadow Place office building, all designed to maintain the historic character of the village. Four of the new buildings are projected for an area within the complex that would be reached on a driveway listed on the plan as Windrose Lane, with an entrance at Franklin and Church streets. The fifth structure is planned for the corner of Main and Franklin.
The plan allows for 160 parking spaces and a walkway from St. Ann’s Avenue to Franklin Street. It retains the sculpture garden, but on a smaller scale and with benches for visitors.
Following the Oct. 13 meeting, Town Manager Gregory Federspiel said most of Winstanley's land is zoned residential. The plot at the corner of Main and Franklin is zoned commercial, he said, which means that only the permission of the building inspector would be needed to build there. Part of the present Winstanley building is in the Historic District. The four projected structures in the project’s interior space would be outside the district.
Winstanley said the decision to provide for office spaces was prompted by “fairly frequent” inquiries on the availability of such space in Lenox.
“This is all going to be what they call ‘Class A’ office space. It’s going to have high-end telecommunications, fiber optics, high-speed data facilities — all of those kinds of things,” he said. “We probably would not build it all at once. We’d probably start by building the addition to our office and the building on the corner. The others would be built as needed.”
He added, “The real objective here is to create permanent activity in the town instead of relying on tourism, to get some businesses in town and to provide nice office spaces. It’s really a year-around perception.
He said his clients “love to come to our office.”
“When they are here, they park, we meet and we walk and have lunch. It’s a wonderful thing. I have one of the best offices of anybody I know because I have proximity to the village. It makes sense that more people who are professionals would like to have office space here in the village, where it is just a matter of walking to town for lunch or to shop.”
Federspiel’s reaction to the Winstanley proposal was generally favorable.
“I think our village needs that,” he said. “I also think we need to look at the residential uses in the village core.”
If a decision were made to add apartments to Winstanley’s projected two-story buildings, Federspeil said, a third floor would have to be provided. That would entail amending the zoning law, which now limits structures to two stories. He noted that Town Hall, the library and Curtis Hotel, built before the law was enacted, are the only three-story buildings in town.
Federspiel said the inclusion of parking spaces and the new office facilities would be a big help in generating commercial activity throughout the year.
“I think he’s going to keep thinking about his plans,” he said. “Meantime the Planning Board will consider changes to the village zoning, which could eventually help his plan.
He said there is no doubt business can be better downtown.
“I think we need to take a hard look at our village and see how we can help it remain viable. Right now, it does very well in the summer, but that’s about it.”
Winstanley, a veteran of Peace Corps service on the Pacific island of Tonga, spent several years as a corporate speechwriter and in public relations, after which he was communications manager for GE plastics in Pittsfield and Detroit. He founded Winstanley Associates in 1986. He and his wife, Kathryn, and their three children live on what was the first Lenox dairy farm, on East Street.