AMHERST – Amherst has approved a residential/commercial development to replace the buildings destroyed by last August’s downtown fire.
During its February session last night, town council voted to approve second reading of a development agreement that will see a new 40-unit apartment complex valued at approximately $4 million built on the site of the former Windsor and Black Block buildings.
“This is great news, it clears the way for us to move forward with our plans for that property,” developer Alex Filimon said after the town approved his project. “Now we just have to get the architect to finalize the plans. I think he’s ready to go, it’s just a matter of him putting together the team.”
Filimon is not sure when work will begin on the property which has remained a fenced in hole in the ground since investigators completed their assessment of the site following the fire that left more than 40 homeless and created a noticeable hole in the downtown streetscape.
He hopes the building will be ready for occupancy in spring 2014.
Speaking to council during a public hearing prior to the regular meeting, Filimon said financing is in place for the project. He said there are a few minor issues to work through regarding parking spaces near the complex and he’s talking to a business about leasing space.
Filimon said he is also talking to a company about leasing the ground floor space facing Victoria Street. Now that the development agreement has been approved, he said, he can commence negotiations to find a tenant.
Mayor Robert Small said this project and others is a sign of development in Amherst, adding building permits are continuing to climb.
“We’re seeing a lot of development, which is encouraging because it a sign of positive growth,” the mayor said. “Building permits are higher than they’ve been in quite some time.”
The town also approved a development agreement for a 20-unit project on Brownell Avenue, while a four-unit townhouse on West Victoria passed through first reading on Monday.
Deputy Mayor George Baker welcomed the downtown project, saying it builds on what the town is trying to accomplish through Centre First by encouraging more residential development in the area.
While Filimon’s project will replace previous buildings, he said it will still help residential development downtown.
“It’s nice to see the development moving forward,” Baker said. “It will be a great improvement for the downtown. It will bring residents downtown and help business in the area.”