Valley CDC nears purchase of EconoLodge on Route 9 in Hadley 

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 01-02-2023 11:28 AM

HADLEY — Valley Community Development is nearing acquisition of the EconoLodge hotel on Route 9, meaning a comprehensive permit application for its conversion into affordable apartments could be filed with the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals early in the new year.

Laura Baker, real estate development director for Valley CDC, told the Select Board at its Dec. 21 meeting that the nonprofit agency anticipates acquiring the title for the 329 Russell St. property from Hampshire Hospitality Group in the first week of January.

Valley CDC is also awaiting a project eligibility letter from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, Baker said. Once that is in hand, the application can be made and a hearing process can begin under the state’s Chapter 40B law, in which affordable housing projects can be permitted where otherwise they would not be allowed.

“That will be our next venture into the public arena,” Baker said.

The project calls for converting the 63 hotel rooms into 50 studio or one-bedroom apartments for low-wage workers.

In the fall semester, the hotel, located in front of the Mountain Farms Mall, was used by the University of Massachusetts to house transfer students. Once Valley CDC controls the property, it may consider offering a short-term lease, likely for three months or so, to another agency, such as one that serves homeless people.

Baker said such a lease would extend through the coldest months and be an overflow for shelters already at capacity in the region, including in Northampton and Amherst. On-site management would be required for such a use, she said.

The short-term lease use is likely allowed by town zoning, though Select Board member Randy Izer suggested that the Planning Board might review it. William Dwyer, the board’s clerk, said as a member he has no problem with that use, but that the building inspector and fire chief might have to examine any conflicts with building and fire codes.

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Over the summer, the Knights Inn, at 208 Russell St., was used by Craig’s Doors: A Home Association, which runs the Amherst shelter.

Hadley Police Chief Michael Mason said such a use might mean more emergency responses than when it has been a hotel. But Mason noted the EconoLodge has interior corridors that makes it a more manageable property than the Knights Inn.

In other business, the Select Board appointed Megan Relin, a resident who works professionally as a clinical social worker and therapist, to the town’s Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Relin, who moved to Hadley from Deerfield last spring, said she wants to “continue my interest in supporting communities to be as inclusive and equitable as possible.”

The board put off a discussion on forming a Hadley Business Advisory Council until next year.

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