Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Signature Building

 Gordon Hall, 418 North Pleasant Street
Proposed Crotty Hall (from Northwest perspective)

A couple years ago Amherst Redevelopment Authority consultant Giani Longo suggested a mixed-use mega project for the North Pleasant street corridor in and around the old frat row.

And just a tad further south, closer to town center, suggested some sort of "signature building" would be nice, since it's such a well traveled route to our proud flagship of higher education, UMass Amherst.

Big green spot in middle right is former Frat Row

The current owners of Gordon Hall, where the UMass Economics Department holds court, go before the Amherst Planning Board on 12/3 to present plans for a matching beautiful building, Crotty Hall.  Together they will make a splendid statement for folks heading into the central core of UMass.

Signature twins if you will.

Unfortunately neither of them, unlike what the ARA consultant had in mind, will be on the tax rolls.  And since they are a 501 (c) (3) non-profit pursuing educational goals the Planning Board pretty much has to approve the project.

And no, they cannot make a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes a special condition for granting Site Plan Approval.

Because it's located on the road owned by Amherst, the building will be protected by Amherst police and fire personnel.  Since Gordon Hall is assessed at almost $3 million, if it were in private for-profit hands (or just a rich homeowner) it would have generated $60,000 last year in property taxes.

 They do at least pay permit fees to Building Department

When this new building goes on line you can more than double that assessed value to well over $6 million or $120,000 in potential property taxes.  Or enough to hire a few badly needed pubic safety personnel. 

Alas, Crotty Hall will pay nothing.  But it sure will be pretty.


Anonymous said...

How can you so nonchalantly post about building development when we have WHITE SUPREMACISTS on the SC and school administrators LYING about all the support they offered a black math teacher??

Anonymous said...

Jesus. That is an extraordinarily ugly building. It looks like barracks. Ugly barracks.

Larry Kelley said...

I think you have to see it from the North Pleasant Street side, rather than the ass end looking towards N. Pleasant.

Anonymous said...

Never really understood why Umass buildings need useless space out front. And it is always masked with a "nature bandaid".

Why waste space when that space could be more density, more functional (or diverse?) building area. Seriously, stop it. Tell the architect to walk away and put the pencil down...

UMass takes it's space for granted. And the pedestrian suffers for it.

Anonymous said...

So this is where the Gateway project way going to be? I always hoped that concept would make the rounds again, but apparently not...

Bring Amherst forward into the 19th Century said...

I like it. Very modern.

Dr. Ed said...

If I am not mistaken, "Gordon Hall" is a former fraternity house that was shut down after an incident (late '90's) where a 19/20-year-old MHC student got drunk and then was raped inside it. (The perp was NOT a member of the fraternity, the frat's offense was providing alcohol to an underaged victim who also wasn't a member of the fraternity.)

I'm neither a fan of fraternities nor of fraternity houses, nor of sororities for a different reason, but one must remember that frat houses were student housing -- the students who would be living in them now rent apartments in Amherst.

The "frat rats" just live somewhere else -- now in residential neighborhoods...

To all of you who want the UM students living on campus instead of in "your" neighborhoods -- fraternities were on-campus housing and students USED TO live in them -- ON campus, like you want them to.

The ~40 quite obnoxiously sophomoric adult-sized children who would be living THERE instead live in about ten apartments that most likely routinely make Larry's "Party House" listings.

Ever notice how it got a lot worse when Frat Row got shut down?

And reality is that when you have a shortage of student housing and then eliminate some student housing, those students must live somewhere else, in housing that is already overcrowded. The underlying cause of all your problems with noise & such, the reason for your 4-person-unit occupancy limit & the rest, (at least in theory) the reason for your rental registry system is that the more students a slumlord can cram into an apartment, the more that apartment becomes a problem for you.

This is not just true of students and it the real reason for the square foot requirements of 105 CMR 410 and the sometimes asinine HUD Section 8 requirements. It's why two sisters/cousins (who are both single mothers) are given two apartments instead of just one and told to share it, but I digress.

Gordon Hall exacerbated both your housing shortage and your student misbehavior problem.

Anonymous said...

Maybe deny the permit on the grounds that the project will unduly burden town services without a corresponding offset in revenue? Maybe that will get the state's attention.

Dr. Ed said...

One needs to add up all the on-campus student housing now being used for other things to understand the extent of how things like Gordon Hall have exacerbated the housing shortage in Amherst.

Frathouses: The ones that were torn down on "frat row", the ones shut down on Sunset Avenue, the one on Chestnut Court that became AHA's John Nutting group home, and more.

Sororities: Some of those too have closed but for a different reason -- now that parents don't mind their daughters living with their boyfriends, they now do.

Dormitories: New Africa House was Mill's House -- both it and Hill's House were men's dorms. (Hills, built in 1960, was so badly trashed in 1969 that Housing abandoned it and slated it for demolition -- the rapidly-expanding School of Education "borrowed" it on a "temporary" basis and thats how that happened.

When student enrollment plummeted in the early 1990's, other dorms became space used for other purposes. Arnold House predates this but it and a bunch of other places are dorms that aren't dorms anymore.

When UM enrollment returned a few years later -- and then was increased further starting with Lombardi -- well those students live somewhere, and those not living in Amherst are driving cars to get to/from there.

My point: all the buildings that students aren't living in anymore are student housing that doesn't exist anymore -- all those students are now renting apartments elsewhere in Amherst.

A second point: much as The Retreat would have lowered rental rates in Amherst, the cumulative effect of eliminating all this housing has been to increase them. Supply and demand.

Hence in "cleaning up" frat row, you only created bigger problems elsewhere....

Dr. Ed said...

"Maybe deny the permit on the grounds that the project will unduly burden town services without a corresponding offset in revenue?"

Doubt that would stand up in court -- but you might want to go with it being a violation of the circa-late 1960's ban on how much UMass is allowed to expand into Amherst. Back then it was eminent domain and some of the problematic private houses (now rental party houses) on Sunset Ave and elsewhere are because UMass was prohibited from taking the other side of those streets.

But private ownership for UM use (e.g. Gordon Hall) is a "distinction without a difference" and you might be able to make your town services point that way.

Remember though that half your taxes go to K-12 education and housing children is the biggest possible burden on town services. Even with the revenue produced if the land is taxable, your net loss could well exceed the total burden here.

Anonymous said...

Actually Dr Ed I think the University is the biggest burden on the town. It is like having all 8 of your grown children move back home with you when they should be out earning their own living. No rent. Little communication. Lots of beer. At least the K-12 schools offer (some) return on investment.

Dr. Ed said...

"Actually Dr Ed I think the University is the biggest burden on the town.

On the basis of *what* financial data?

The other thing to remember is that the K-12 population consumes more town services than the UM kids do == library, LSSE, APD/AFD, etc.

And as to return on investment, how many ARHS grads are able to reside intown? Damn few....

Anonymous said...

If Ed is right, should we build as much taxable "student housing" as possible because it is less likely to have any K-12 parasites?

Or is that just trading ticks for tapeworms?