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Village Hill Development Moves Forward

September 28, 2010: Daily Hampshire Gazette, by Ellie Cook

NORTHAMPTON – Fall’s here, and with winter bearing down, projects race to the finish. If this most beautiful season proves long, work can go on right through November.

Village Hill, where the state hospital used to be (the R44 bus still has a Hospital Hill sign), has undergone a huge transformation in the past few years. At first it seemed that people were wary of buying into the new development, and the economy didn’t help.

But according to city businessman and longtime real estate agent Pat Goggins, the Kollmorgen Electro-Optical Corp. plant going up on the South Campus makes people more confident that the development will take hold.

“The community has finally decided that it’s really going to happen up there,” he said last week.

He commented, as many have, on the development’s “walkability,” situated as it is about three-quarters of a mile from town, with its bike and walking paths.

Goggins, who is handling the marketing of new homes in the development, talked about the work along the eastern side of the North Campus on Olander Drive.

In the area called Morningside, four single-family houses have been built there, and all of them are now sold, the latest one early this month. Six more will be finished by early next summer; of those, four are “going into the ground in the next six weeks,” builder Jonathan Wright said last week. All six are under deposit, Goggins said. A total of 11 are planned, according to Wright.

Wright attributed the keener interest in those homes to the builders’ expanding the original two designs to seven, some of them “cottage” and “farmhouse” style – a bit smaller and less expensive. The cost ranges from $479,000 to $589,000.

The three four-condo townhouses, opposite Morningside, are two-thirds built. The first building is already entirely owner-occupied. The second is nearly finished, and two of those four condos are under deposit. Around the corner, the final building is set for a spring finish, with one condo already under deposit. They go for $269,000 to $379,000.

The 33 apartments in Craftsman-style buildings in the center of the development, the work of Community Builders, are mostly filled. A Community Builders spokeswoman said only two apartments, both market-rate, are vacant.

A bunch of bungalows are planned to go in along the western edge of the development. Kelsey Abruzzese of MassDevelopment, the quasi-state agency developing the property, said the agency is negotiating with a builder and details of that project will be announced soon.

Some amazing trees have been preserved, including a stand of ancient beeches near where the state hospital’s Old Main building stood, and stately oaks along Musante Drive.

Don’t be shy about walking in the beautiful open space areas above and behind the development. The no trespassing signs are supposed to come down soon, according to Sara Northrup of MassDevelopment.

Kollmorgen’s new $18 million plant sits solid, with a nice view from its back windows of the Holyoke Range. Paving began last week, and the building looks nearly complete.

The company, which designs optical and imaging systems for submarines, surface ships and combat vehicles, is still operating in its old plant on King Street. Workers there are preparing to move, and Andrew Crystal, who is managing the project for O’Connell Development Corp., said he expects the move-in date to be around the new year.

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