STOCKBRIDGE — First proposed more than five years ago and then shelved amid a storm of opposition, a plan to redevelop the former DeSisto School is back on the table.
In an informal presentation to the Select Board on Thursday evening, developer Patrick Sheehan outlined his vision for the 320-acre site at 37 Interlaken Road (Route 183), anchored by a deteriorating 130-year-old mansion.
Sheehan, who acquired the site for $1.3 million at a public auction in 2009, had listed it for $9 million, but no takers emerged.
Now, as before, Sheehan is planning a total of 210-220 units on the property – a mix of hotel, condos and single-family homes. Most of the land is zoned residential in 2 acre and 4 acre parcels. He described a step-by-step approach “so hopefully it won’t negatively affect the goalscorers”.
His current vision for the property is identical to the proposal he first presented in December 2016. That plan, which was estimated to cost more than $150 million, was scrapped in mid-2018, after controversial meetings of the Select Board, Planning Board and other meetings, reflecting what appeared to be widespread opposition, as well as support.
The project initially gained support from the business community and some residents, but ran into strong headwinds from some neighbors and other locals who objected to its size and layout. magnitude.
A goalscorer has expressed concern that a completed project could be handed over to a hotel chain and be intrusive for nearby neighbours. Other opponents argued that it was too big for Stockbridge, that it would alter the character of the town and overcrowd a mainly rural area, even though it was barely a mile from the bustling Kripalu center for yoga and health.
Accusing the city government of “bad faith,” Sheehan maintained that he never had the chance to formally apply for a special permit before the select committee for a decision.
Sheehan, owner of a semi-retired care home and assisted living facility, did not offer an updated construction cost for his revived vision, which he described as “an all-encompassing lifestyle”.
“We don’t really have any new ideas,” he said. “We really just want to re-commit to the plan that we’ve presented, and I think that kind of shows the quality of what we’ve presented.” He cited meetings with neighbors and residents before and during the original presentation, including a series of open house meetings and tours of the property.
Key details presented by Sheehan, along with a series of unofficial sitemap sketches:
• Restoration of the historic mansion to a 40-room boutique hotel, preserving the large and prominent front lawn.
• Six buildings housing 140 condominium units, described by Sheehan as a “condo-tel” that can be bought or rented and managed by the hotel with administrative and support services.
• Thirty-five to 40 single-family homes in the rear part of the property, with a potential sale price of up to $900,000.
• A 15-20 acre working farm, described as an “agro-hood”, to provide produce, flowers and “health-related items” to guests and owners, Sheehan said. “It’s all part of this healthy farm-to-table lifestyle,” he said.
• A range of amenities, including a spa, gym and pool and, potentially, a restaurant (“You can’t have too many,” Sheehan noted), laundry and other facilities, and services desired by customers and owners.
Sheehan predicted that, if developed, the property would generate significant revenue for the city, including “well in excess of a few million dollars a year” in property taxes, connection fees, as well as taxes on hotels and meals. He said housing would be clustered “to preserve as much green space as possible”.
“The type of accommodation we’re talking about really doesn’t exist in Stockbridge,” Sheehan told the Select Board. “We are not trying to create additional housing that duplicates what already exists. We’re trying to do something a little different and fill an unmet need. A lot has changed in the past two years. »
Sheehan said he occasionally lived on the property. If and when it is developed, he told the Select Board and an audience of around 40 people on Zoom and in person, he would reside there full-time for hands-on management.
“If there was noise or other issues that people would be concerned about, the people in front would be me and the other residents of the property,” he said.
“You would get a representative sample of people who would live there; this would be a real benefit for older people who want to downsize, stay in Stockbridge and live in a community that can provide them with the support they need to stay put for as long as possible.
The mansion, named Beckwithshaw, was built in 1892 by Leonard Forbes Beckwith and his wife, Margaretta, for $100,000, a huge fortune at the time.
Sheehan noted that in 1936 private property hosted a precursor to the Tanglewood Music Festival on what was then Hanna Farm.
From 1948 to 1977 it was a progressive boarding school, the Stockbridge School, then the DeSisto School for bright and emotionally challenged students, opened by A. Michael DeSisto in 1978 but closed by the state following allegations of abuse against students, then abandoned in 2004.
“I’ve put so much time, so many resources and so much money into the property that I’d like to see if it can’t move forward,” Sheehan told the Select Board. “I think what we are proposing is reasonable. I want to reassure people that, given the opportunity, we will do our best. »