Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

EconoLodge set to become affordable housing development by 2026

51 studio apartments and one-bedroom spaces will be constructed to the previous hotel
Image courtesy of Valley Community Development Corporation.

The EconoLodge, a now-closed hotel off Route 9 in Hadley, is undergoing the process of being converted into affordable housing.

The hotel, which previously had 63 conventional standard rooms with double occupancy, will be turned into 51 apartments, with a mix of studios and single-bedroom spaces.

The project is led by Valley Community Development (ValleyCDC). The process began in 2023, but there were hurdles with the zoning approval process due to the EconoLodge being in a zone that is only used for industrial purposes. When ValleyCDC asked for a waiver through Chapter 40B, an official state law that is promoting affordable housing, the Hadley zoning board of appeals said no. After an appeal to a state body, the project was approved.

“We have a number of different milestones, one of which is site control, so we have to own or control the property; then we have zoning approval, which is the one that was challenging, and finally got overturned in an appeal; and then the last major hurdle is raising all of the financing that is needed,” Laura Baker, the project manager, said.

ValleyCDC owns multiple housing properties in the Amherst and Northampton area. Baker explained that the EconoLodge was a good location for the project due to the close proximity to a frequent bus line, a bike path and a lot of shopping and stores.

Alongside the 51 rooms, the EconoLodge will have a community space, laundry and other resources for tenants.

“We also try to build in some support services for tenants, so they are not only in that location, but they are able to maintain that housing, because perhaps other needs that they have are also being met,” Baker explained. “We do a lot of service coordination work, where we are matching people up with other support that they need, to be more economically viable and also have a good sense of wellbeing.”

The project is set to be done in 2026. Currently, the EconoLodge is being leased by Craig’s Doors, a human services organization.

Baker noted past opposition to some of ValleyCDC’s housing units from the towns they reside in, and the EconoLodge is no exception. Baker said there has been resistance to affordable housing due to stigma about those who are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.

“It’s that kind of ‘if you build it, they will come.’ That’s the fear people have. If you provide those resources then you will attract more of those things that we are already uncomfortable with rather than less of it,” Baker explained. “People talk about people who are panhandling by the mall, or Route 9, or camping in tents. Our whole idea of what we are doing is if we assist those folks they won’t be doing those things.”

Pat DeAngelis, an Amherst town council member, explained that the cost for building an affordable housing space is more expensive than general family residences. With Amherst in need of more affordable housing, finding and keeping housing secure is a complication for residents.

“The other thing that is interesting is once you are in an affordable unit, it doesn’t mean you get to stay. Your rent still goes up, and there can still be things that happen,” she said.

For the ValleyCDC development East Gables, there was a mix of resistance and support from the Amherst community. Baker emphasized that student advocacy for projects such as East Gables or the EconoLodge conversion is important, as students can provide the kind of mindset needed to promote affordable housing.

“Real estate is all about location, so people who are supportive of a thing if it’s across town might fight the same thing if it’s near them. So you really do need a larger community to be supporting you, because people are so territorial, and the students… are not having that same feeling of territorialism that homeowners might have. It gives them freedom to look at it from a different perspective,” Baker said.

Eve Neumann can be reached at [email protected].

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