NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday night authorized the mayor to buy a section of the parking lot of the Armory for $1.
The .166-acre plot should have been included in the city's purchase of the former National Guard Armory on Ashland Street several years ago. Mayor Richard Alcombright said Michael Nuvallie of the Office of Community Development had worked over the past year with the state Division of Capital Asset Management, which set the value at $18,000 after an appraisal was done.
"This parcel is obviously very important to the project and while erroneously omitted from purchase, it was pretty clear we would have to pay," the mayor read from his communication to the council. He credited Daniel Bosley, former state representative, for getting the priced dropped to a dollar in one of his "last legislative efforts" and saving the city $18,000.
The Armory is currently undergoing an extensive renovation through the use of federal and state grants with the idea of using it as a community or youth center.
"We've been successful just by monitoring them and running them through the Board of Health," said Alcombright of food vendors operating at events in the city. General Government Committee Chairman Keith Bona and committee member Lisa Blackmer concurred that there had been no issues to date. The mayor said he will meet with Bona and Tourism and Cultural Development Director Veronica Bosley to craft a city policy for vendors.
Councilor Marie Harpin expressed her concern over the continued detioration of the Hoosac Mill and the safety of the sidewalk area where parts of the roof had collapsed over the winter. The mayor said he would be meeting with the owner and the building inspector on Thursday and that jersey barriers would replace the current plastic fencing to prevent people from using the sidewalk.
Councilor Alan Marden asked about the disappearance of the handicapped parking spots on Main Street. The mayor said the spots still existed but the signs had not been installed.
"Everything we paid so much attention to for ADA compliance ... and handicapped parking signs were not drawn on the plans," the mayor said. "We've gotten that resolved."
In the meantime, he reminded those with handicapped plates or placards that they could park in any spot, not just the designated ones.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is hoping to begin discussions late in the summer on the best ways to reuse the former state Armory building as a community center.
The former National Guard headquarters on Ashland Street is in the midst of an estimated $5 million overhaul — but the going's been tough because the funding has been dribbling in through Community Development Block Grants.
"We can't get our arms around $5 million at a clip," said Michael Nuvallie of the city's Office of Community Development in his presentation to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday night. "We can get our arms around $300,000, $200,000, another $150,000 and we keep fixing that old car."
The city bought the structure from the state in 2007 with the vision of turning it into a community center. The building's gym has long been used for high school and youth sports and its location within walking distance of the downtown, senior housing and the college, and along public and school bus routes.
The project has gone through four phases of work already: the repair and replacement of the roofs; rebuilding of the front and side stairs; the design of an elevator; and the installation of the elevator to address handicapped accessibility.
The fifth and more substantial phase is being prepared for bidding in the next few weeks. It will include the installation of new gas heating systems, a three-phased electrical system, new handicapped restrooms on the first floor near the elevator and new concession stand for the gym. The total cost is estimated at $800,000.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring and continue through the summer. The expectation is the gym and new entrance area by the elevators will be completed for the youth basketball league to move back in.
The city is already applying for more block grant funds to continue the ongoing project, said Nuvallie. "The building is old, it needs to be updated in every shape and form."
While the vision has always been to transform the building into a community center, the youth basketball league is the only concrete use decided so far. The amount of work ("very grinding") necessary on the building has kept the focus on construction, not reuse.
There is extensive space in the basement and first and second floor that could be used for leasing purposes for agencies or groups or programs. The goal would be to make the building sustainable in the same way the skating rink is. It might also become the headquarters for the Parks & Recreation Commission and the Youth Commission.
Mike Nuvallie updated the commission and a handful of residents on Wednesday on the work done to date at the Armory.
"My initial vision is the fact that you'd want agencies in there that not only would obviously do what they do but could establish programming and be there for the building," said Mayor Richard Alcombright. "Whoever is in there would have to sustain this kind of community model."
Residents, particularly the new Youth Commission, the mayor assured commission member Kate Merrigan and Councilor Michael Boland, would have input into what type of programming would be used.
"Over the next six months or as this new phase begins, that's when we can really start to have some community conversations of what this can become," he said.
A lot more work is required. The second-floor offices have extensive water damage, the basement has been neglected but offers a mess kitchen and lots of activity space and the parking area needs an estimated $400,000 in paving and landscaping.
"We want it to look quite spectaular when it's done," said the mayor.
The vestibule for elevator access is being constructed on the Porter Street side of the armory on Ashland Street.
Wondering what that little building on the Porter Street side of the armory is? It's the entrance to an elevator.
The handicapped access is just one of the many renovations being undertaken to transform the former military building into a facility suitable for community use.
The city took over the state structure in 2007 and began fixing it up — little by little — with the help of grants and state and federal funding.
Michael Nuvallie, of the city's Office of Community Development, said last week that this is just the latest in a number of project phases that began with the redoing the roof.
The construction of the vestibule and elevator will cost an estimated $324,000 and the work is being done by Burke Construction of Adams. Some $375,000 was targeted for the project by U.S. Rep. John W. Olver in the 2010 omnibus appropriations bill to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
So far, the building's been stabilized, new concrete stairs and walkways have been poured and other exterior upgrades have been made.
"We picked four spots for an elevator; the best one for the dollar is Porter Street," said Nuvallie. "It makes sense for traffic and we can put handicapped parking there, too."
This phase should be completed by early fall. The next will be work on the bathrooms and concession stand and new heating systems, for which the city has applied for Community Development Block Grants. Nuvallie said he expects the grants to be awarded on or about the latter part of July.
"I think the important thing to key in on is the transformation from a national mility barracks to a true public building is going to take time to do it right," he said. "We definitely need to do the office spaces on the second and third floor, get rid of all the old fencing and make it friendlier and prettier ... make it right for community use."
The building still won't be open to the public; it's being limited to use by the North Adams Basketball League, which has been utilizing the gym there for years. The gym also had been used by the Drury High School basketball team decades ago.
"The goal is to turn it into a community youth center," said Nuvallie. "The basketball league is perfect for that. We hope we can keep working without interrupting their season."
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.