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Village Hill Works on Creating New Ford Crossing Neighborhood

February 20, 2012 : Daily Hampshire Gazette, by Bob Dunn

NORTHAMPTON – The planned development at Ford Crossing at Village Hill will be more than a collection of homes that all happen to share the same space according to its planners.

It’s hopefully going to be a neighborhood.

“We want to be much more than a residential subdivision,” said Richard Henderson, Executive Vice President for Real Estate for MassDevelopment, the company seeking interest from developers to make that idea a reality.

Henderson said that a request for expressions of interest in development was issued Jan. 4, with a due date of later this week, Feb. 24.

Henderson said special consideration is being given to the proposals to ensure that they jibe with the vision that MassDevelopment has in mind.

He said the subdivision of Ford Crossing will consist of approximately 26 townhouse or condominium units and can be a mix of residential and small commercial retail properties.

Ideally, the development will mix housing, workplace and recreation space in a way that creates a pedestrian-friendly place to live, in which many of the residents’ needs would be served within walking distance from their homes.

Henderson said the neighborhood should include recreational amenities like space for walking and biking, and space for residents to take their dogs.

Henderson said he prefers to think of potential developers as “community builders” more than developers.

Inclusion of simple things like front porches on the residential buildings, he said, go a long way at adding facets of that sense of neighborhood.

It’s a design philosophy called “new urbanism,” Henderson said, one that is often talked about in city planning sessions. It aims to promote walkability, sustainibility and energy-efficient construction, and the creation of public open-space.

“It’s conceived as a living and working community,” Henderson said.

Henderson said the site’s proximity to the Kollmorgan Electro-Optical plant will provide the opportunity for employees to use the space during breaks, and may even entice some to choose it as their residence once they see it complete.

Should the weather cooperate, Henderson said, Ford Crossing could be completed as soon as fall of this year, but delays could push that into spring of 2013.

MassDevelopment has overseen the construction of several complexes and developments in the area, including Hilltop Apartments, Hillside Place, Morningside and Eastview.

Most of the derelict buildings on the grounds of the old state hospital have been razed already, Henderson said, and special attention has been paid to the existing landscaping to determine what can remain in concert with the development.

“We’ve tried to build the master plan around the existing characteristics of the site,” Henderson said.

Another consideration for prospective developers, he added, is that the designs are all complementary to each other and aesthetically attractive.

That, however, doesn’t mean the buildings have to be identical, just that one design isn’t a jarring change of pace from the others.

“It’s a beautiful site,” said Henderson. “It has a lot of great views.”

© Copyright 2012 Daily Hampshire Gazette.