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Off the Beat: Village Hill Picks Up Steam, Despite Economy

August 17, 2010: Daily Hampshire Gazette, by Chad Cain

An anemic economy may have slowed momentum at Village Hill Northampton, but efforts to develop the former state hospital grounds into a mix of homes and businesses is picking up steam this summer.

On the north campus, where most of the homes are being constructed, Wright Builders Inc. reports that interest in its high-end subdivision has revved back up this year. The Northampton company is also a year ahead of schedule in its development of a cluster of townhouses.

Meanwhile, the state agency overseeing the sites overall development is in negotiations with a developer for a 26-home bungalow complex north of the community gardens. MassDevelopment is expected to ink a deal with that unnamed developer rather soon, said spokeswoman Kelsey Abbruzzese.

Finally, on the developments south campus, Kollmorgen Electro-Opticals new 140,000-square-foot manufacturing and office facility is expected to be completed in a few months, at which time the company plans to move its 370-plus employee workforce there from its King Street headquarters.

As for the home construction already under way, Jonathan Wright of Wright Builders said that nine of the 11 high-end, single-family lots in its Morningside subdivision are spoken for. Three of those homes are already built and one is under construction. Work on three more is slated for the fall, with two more to begin next spring.

Meanwhile, the 12-unit Eastview townhouse complex is selling fast. The first of three buildings is finished, with the units selling for between $269,000 and $349,000, depending on their location and whether they have two or three bedrooms.

The second building is under construction, with two of the units already sold. That project is slated for a November completion. The third building also has some pre-sales. Work will start this fall and be completed next June, a year ahead of schedule.

The next 12 to 18 months are going to be exciting up there, said Wright.

Village Hill Northamptons 126-acre campus could have as many as 327 housing units when the site is developed. Nearly all of those units would be located on the north side of the site.

Several apartment complexes are already open and occupied. Springfield-based Community Builders Inc. developed Hillside Place at Village Hill, a six-building, 40-unit mixed-income townhouse and apartment complex not far from the companys 33-unit apartment complex called Hilltop Apartments.

Building office expands

The city’s Building Commissioner’s Office is expanding its reach. In an agreement that began July 1, the city is handling building inspections and zoning issues for the town of Williamsburg. The contract will end up paying a portion of the salaries of the building inspectors in the office, said Louis Hasbrouck, building commissioner.

Williamsburg, which had been getting the services through the Hampshire Council of Governments, is handling its own electrical and plumbing inspections. Inspection records for open cases are stored in the Northampton office while records of closed cases are kept in Williamsburg town hall.

Hasbrouck, meanwhile, is in his third month as building commissioner, having replaced longtime commissioner Anthony Patillo, who retired in March. Hasbrouck worked for the city for about three years before leaving his building inspector position a year ago to take the building commissioner job for the town of Monson. He returned to the city to take a newly created position of assistant building commissioner.

Replacing Hasbrouck as assistant building commissioner is Charles Miller, a Northampton native who is also Westhamptons building commissioner. Miller worked at Wright Builders for 20 years before joining the city July 1. Another local inspector position is currently vacant. Hasbrouck said he doesnt want to incorporate too many new people in the department at once, but expects that position to be filled in the near future.

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