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Building Collapses in Great Barrington
By: Nichole Dupont On: 12:42AM / Monday February 07, 2011

A building off Bridge Street collapsed Sunday. It can be seen as the gray-roofed building to the left in this Google map image.

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — An old wood-frame building behind the Berkshire Cooperative Market on Bridge Street collapsed Sunday afternoon, apparently from the weight of the snow.

The collapse was reported at about 1:30 p.m. to police, who were at first concerned that it may have been occupied because utility lines led to the building. However, the building had apparently been abandoned some time ago.

It is in wooded area adjancent Memorial Park and accessed by a lane running behind the co-op parking lot. It was unclear who owns the structure.


Tags: collapse, buildings      
Could New Neighbors Be Wall Street Journal Heirs?
By: Staff Reports On: 04:26PM / Wednesday February 02, 2011

NEW MARLBOROUGH, Mass — Realtor Lance Vermeulen refused to name who purchased nearly 300 acres of land on Canaan Southfield Road for $4.3 million but iBerkshires has a guess.

Your new neighbors may be Amy Selinger and Mark Elefante – a young couple with ties to the former Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones and Co. It could also be one of the Bancrofts themselves – who inherited the Wall Street Journal and made $1.2 billion on its 2007 sale.

Here's how we came up with that.

The property listed at 2128 Canaan Southfield Road was sold to the holding company Vergelegen LLC, according to state land records. The Secretary of State's corporation database shows the agent of the holding company to be Elefante. The holding company's address is the same as the law firm Hemenway and Barnes, which is also noted in the land transfer paperwork.

An attorney with Hemenway and Barnes acted as lead trustee for the sale of Dow Jones and Co. to News Corp. – Rupert Murdoch's empire – in 2007. And that attorney's name..... drumroll please.... Michael Elefante. Michael Elefante is also authorized to execute documents through Vergelegen LLC. 

Michael Elefante joined Hemenway and Barnes in 1970 and served as a director of Dow Jones & Co. – serving with the Bancrofts. Michael was the lead trustee for the Dow Jones Co. His son Mark Elefante joined the law firm later.

But we are not done yet. There are some other factors that lead us to bet on him.

Mark Elefante studied at Williams College and he married Selinger in 2009. Williams students are known to return to the area.

They were both 29 at the time and Vermeulen said that it was a young couple looking for a second home who purchased the property.

Next we have the land itself. The land has three buildings: a 2,100-square-foot farmhouse and two smaller 1,000-square-foot dwellings. Pretty good land for farming and horse-breeding, we would think. With ties to the Bancroft family, we could suspect the Elefantes run in similar circles and Wikipedia says the Bancrofts enjoy farming and horse-breeding.

We do wonder if maybe Mark Elefante is using his holding company to conceal the name for a client. He does specialize in land acquisition.

The Bancrofts are notoriously reclusive from media coverage and the town does not see the spotlight often.

Anybody have the inside scoop or other guesses?

Tags: Wall Street Journal, New Marlborough, Land      
Town Accepting Bids for Old Fire Station
By: Nichole Dupont On: 02:21PM / Monday January 03, 2011

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The town began accepting proposals for the sale and reuse of the old fire station at 20 Castle St. on Dec. 22, and while the sale price of the building is up for negotiation, one thing is clear: the 1899 firehouse is going to require work — a lot of work.

The deadline for these completed and sealed proposals is Feb. 9, no later than 2 p.m., at which point the proposals will be publicly opened and perused by the Selectmen.

According to the town manager’s request for proposals, the 15,146-square foot, three-story wood and brick structure in the Downtown B business zone is in desperate need of renovation in order to make it useful.

The RFP includes a 2001 observations report conducted by Clark Engineering & Surveying PC and Mitchell Ross Associates Architects PC that outlines some of the building’s problems. Of major concern are the spalling (breaking) bricks that are literally falling off the tower, the deteriorating asphalt roof, improper ventilation and, of course, the presence of asbestos-containing materials. These materials were discovered and listed in a 1998 pre-renovation asbestos survey conducted by Eco-Genesis. Insulation, cement, floor tiles, flashing and even window glazing were found to have asbestos in them.

A final 2005 assessment of the building conducted by Huntley Associates PC reported that the “reuse and retrofit of the current firehouse structure is feasible, but will likely be very complicated and extremely cost intensive.”

The report went on to say that building a new firehouse would be more cost effective. After years of debating an appropriate location, the new firehouse at 37 State Road opened in October 2009.

Bid submission requirements include a 5 percent deposit (made payable to the town) of the proposed purchase price as well as plan descriptions and graphics “sufficient to allow the Town to evaluate the proposal.”

For more information on the town’s request for proposals for the old fire station visit and click on the RFP for Castle Street Fire Station. While no public meeting as to reuse or bid has yet been scheduled, once bid proposals are reviewed by the Selectmen, a public forum will most likely be scheduled.

Tags: Great Barrington, fire station      
Is Kolburne Losing Ground and Property?
By: Nichole Dupont On: 03:45PM / Tuesday December 14, 2010

Generally I’m not one to go for the “heard it through the grapevine” approach to stories, but since it’s a small community and jobs may be on the line, I was hard pressed (actually, begged) not to use any names for this one. Actually, people have lost their jobs already, or been demoted or absorbed as a result of this latest news from Kolburne School.

The Caldwell House, which is a satellite residential home for students at the school, will be closing tomorrow. Employees at the house, which is located in Sheffield (set away from the road a stone ’s throw away from the covered bridge), found out roughly two weeks ago that it would be closing. While the school has managed to “absorb” these seven employees, many have been demoted or had to take a pay cut as a result of the closing.

Caldwell House is rumored to be closing tomorrow.

I’m not sure what exactly will happen to the six students who were living at the house but it is clear that Kolburne School, like most residential schools, is being hit hard by the economy. Enrollment has dropped significantly from roughly 120 students down to 80 (or less) and the school is still in the middle of labor union negotiations as it seems they want to downsize employee contracts, which are reportedly already slim to begin with.

In addition to its main campus in Southfield, Kolburne has three residential campuses in Lee, Great Barrington and Sheffield. Actually, make that two since the Sheffield campus will be closing tomorrow. It may be on the market within the month.

It is hard to say where the school will go from here. Rumors have been flying that it is on the brink of financial collapse and much of what’s happening seems to be pointing in that direction, although no official news has come from the school itself. Thus far the news of closings and contracts and scandal has been a strong whispering current in the community at large.

More to follow…

Tags: Caldwell, House, Closing, Kolburne School      
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