AMHERST — As progress continues on the $47.5 million North Square at the Mill District mixed-use development on Cowls Road in North Amherst, its property owner sees more potential for enhancing that part of town through the recent designation of a federal opportunity zone.
W.D. Cowls President Cinda Jones says the opportunity zone designation, which came earlier this year and recognizes that North Amherst is both low-income and rural, could supplement Beacon Communities Development’s project at the heart of Cowls Road with additional development.
In an interview at the site Tuesday, Jones pointed to what she is calling the Mill District Depot, on Cowls Road near Sunderland Road, and Mill District West, a 12-acre parcel situated across Sunderland Road, as locations that could be marketed as part of the opportunity zone, which are deemed places ripe for investments to improve the economic potential and attract investor interest.
The opportunity zone allows investors to receive tax benefits on their unrealized capital gains, which are then invested on a project, in a blighted area, through opportunity funds.
Jones said she credits Geoff Kravitz, the town’s economic development director, for pursuing the designation. “I am grateful the town hired someone to do this,” Jones said.
While uncertain as to the exact nature of a project that might benefit from being in the opportunity zone, one is what she calls the Antique Barn, a 200-year-old building at 134 Montague Road that faces the road and which would be reconstructed and redeveloped. A daycare business has expressed interest in using a portion of the barn, she said.
Another project that could get this form of stimulus money would be a condominium project, perhaps geared toward senior citizens, that could be built on the Mill Depot West site.
Meantime, with the first of 130 new apartments at North Square to open next summer, and the remainder in fall 2019, Jones is beginning to plan how the 22,500 square feet of commercial space in the development will be used.
Part of it is going to be a general store, a pop-up art shop and a cafe, with a fitness club likely to join as a tenant along with a “cinema draft house,” which is a place where people can eat and drink while watching a movie or a live show.
“We’re trying to bring back the old American downtown,” Jones said.
These would join the Lift Salon and Jake’s Cafe at the Trolley Barn, and the Atkins Farms Country Market North store.
To achieve her vision, Jones has two new staff members who will begin working for W.D. Cowls in the new year.
Jennifer Gannett, currently the permits administrator for Amherst, will become the company’s director of community development. In this role, Gannett will handle big picture organizing and overseeing progress in the Mill District, Jones said.
This will be an important role as North Square, like Riverside Park Shopping Plaza on Montague Road, which is closer to North Amherst center, needs to have a diverse selection of shops.
The goal is to have what Jones calls unique retail, innovative shops and services that are fun.
“The wonderful thing about North Square and Riverside Park is we control the mix of tenants,” Jones said.
Hannah Rechtschaffen, who is at the University of Massachusetts’ arts extension service, is being hired as director of placemaking and special projects, which Jones said will be aimed at creating a dynamic destination for North Amherst, similar to the role the Business Improvement District plays for downtown Amherst.
“We have one chance to create the best at the center of this community,” Jones said.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at email@example.com.
Originally Published on December 19, 2018 at 04:15AM
Article published originally via “opportunity zone” – Google News https://www.gazettenet.com/North-Amherst-opportunity-zone-as-Mill-District-takes-shapes-22253878