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Plans for the expanded parking at Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy, 1148 Converse St. Also shown is the footprint for an addition to the building, which would be completed in a future phase of the project.
Photo Credit: Longmeadow TV

LONGMEADOW — Plans for the first phase of an expansion at Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy, 1148 Converse St., were approved by the Longmeadow Planning Board on March 6.

The complete project calls for a 10,000-foot addition to the facility, which is part elementary and middle school, part adult religious education center and part synagogue. Phase 1, however, focuses on immediate changes to the parking lot and traffic flow.

Filipe Cravo, the project engineer with R Levesque Associates, described the property’s current layout, which has a horseshoe-shaped driveway for people to drop off and pick up their children from school. There is also a parking area that uses the same exit as the driveway.

LYA Director Rabbi Noach Kosofsky said the layout creates congestion when people are leaving the parking lot during drop-off and pick-up times. Additionally, he said that because the number of people who use LYA has grown substantially since it was built in 1979, the parking area is too small, leaving many with “no place to park.”

Cravo said the first phase of the project would solve the immediate traffic and parking needs for LYA. The existing parking lot would be demolished, and a new, wider lot would be installed. The athletic field between the school and the Springfield Mikvah property to the west would be removed to make way for the lot and the eventual building expansion. A second parking lot of about the same size will be installed on the west side of the building, where there is now a narrow driveway providing access to dumpsters.

The change in the lot design would allow for a one-way traffic pattern, with vehicles entering from the eastern-most driveway, with the option to park in the eastern lot or follow the horseshoe past the entrance. From there, drivers could exit from the center curb cut or continue to the western lot. A second exit would be created on the west side of the lot in Phase 2, so vehicles would not need to use the exit from the horseshoe, Cravo explained.

As part of the lot changes and increase in impermeable surface area, new grading and stormwater drainage and erosion control would be needed. Plans for this were submitted to the Planning Board as part of the site plan review.

A photometric plan detailing the use of lighting fixtures for the new lot was not included. Cravo said the plan was not yet ready, but the goal was to have “zero” light affect abutting properties and shielding can be used to achieve this.

Kosofsky said the school “must” have a field for student exercise, but with the removal of the existing one, he said he did not yet know where it would be relocated. The building is set close to the rear of the 2.49-acre property and the parking lot on the academy’s eastern side will follow the property line, leaving little room on the site for a field.

Cravo said the Police, Fire and Planning departments did not express any concerns with Phase 1. Tree Warden Leah Grigorov asked that trees and plantings removed for construction be replaced with the same species in a different part of the property.

The board issued a unanimous approval of Phase 1 with the conditions that an acceptable photometric plan be submitted and Grigorov’s comments be addressed.

Turning attention to the planned expansion of the building, the Planning Board told Kosofsky that each phase of the project will require its own public hearing.

Planning Board member Bruce Colton asked Kosofsky if the school was going to be accepting more students. The rabbi explained that was not yet determined. He shared that the main reason for the addition is that the number of students, ranging from preschoolers to eighth graders, at LYA has increased over the years. He said that the scope of services has also “changed dramatically.” Despite three previous expansions, the LYA has run out of room.

“Everything is just so tight,” Kosofsky said.

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