Fieldstone housing project taking shape at UMass 

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 01-26-2023 7:52 PM

AMHERST — Close to the middle of the University of Massachusetts campus, a large building to feature 623 beds for undergraduate students continues to take shape for the fall semester.

But unlike the nearby dormitories, including the towers and low rises of the Southwest Area, those who live at the corner of Massachusetts and Lincoln avenues, across from the Whitmore Administration building, will be paying rent to a private company, and there will be no resident directors or resident assistants affiliated with UMass.

The development of Fieldstone, as it is being called, marks the first public-private partnership for a building for the university. It is part of a $200 million project being developed by Axium Infrastructure of New York City and Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions of Philadelphia that also includes a building offering 200 beds for graduate students that will replace Lincoln Apartments.

The overall project will supplement the 13,500 beds that UMass already has on campus, which increased to 14,300 beds last fall due to an increase in demand from undergraduates to live in dorms coming out of the pandemic. UMass has 22,700 undergraduates.

While Fieldstone is on university property that was once a parking lot, UMass spokesman Edward Blagsuzewski said the value of the project is in the financial flexibility that is being offered. The companies are responsible for all the financials, meaning the university doesn’t have to borrow money to add to the housing stock on campus.

“We can put investments toward other projects,” Blaguszewski said.

UMass received a $20 million up-front service concession fee from Axium, as part of a 65-year concession agreement, and UMass will continue to own the land.

“We found that a quality development in the heart of campus was a priority,” Blaguszewski said.

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Management of the building also sets the rates. A website shows that leases are for one year, and go from $2,256 per month for studios, $2,472 per month for one-bedroom apartments, $1,826 per bed for two-bedroom apartments and $1,504 per bed for four-bedroom apartments.

In that way, Fieldstone Slate, the undergraduate building, is comparable to the mixed-use buildings that have risen in downtown Amherst, like One East Pleasant and Kendrick Place, and other projects targeted toward students, including Olympia Place and Aspen Heights.

One difference, though, will be the community-oriented spaces the university will be providing.

“The ground floor storefront of the undergraduate complex along Massachusetts Avenue will include a bistro-themed café operated by UMass Dining and space for enhancing student well-being, including a bouldering wall, that will be operated by Campus Recreation,” the UMass website states.

“Both the new café and the wellness space will be available to the entire campus community and provide new offerings that do not currently exist on campus.”

Blaguszewski said it’s uncertain if there will be any additional commercial space inside the building. At the mixed-use projects in Amherst, the street level is typically set aside for restaurants and shops.

The building accommodating 201 beds of graduate student apartment-style housing, to be called Fieldstone Artisan, is also advancing, with a scheduled completion either in the fall or by early 2024.

Limited living space on campus in the fall forced UMass to find off-campus alternatives, with the EconoLodge on Route 9 in Hadley turned into a dormitory for transfer students. Blaguszewski said several transitioned to campus in the fall and all were given the opportunity to live on campus this spring.

That follows a typical spring pattern at colleges and universities that find, owing to graduations, study-abroad programs and dropouts, that more beds become available.

“There’s always more spaces in the spring than in the fall,” Blaguszewski said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.]]>