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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Nikolai Rudd: City Council Candidate

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, October 12, 2005

City Council challenger Nikolai Rudd
•SEE VIDEO INTERVIEW
•SEE VIDEO INTERVIEW

North Adams – Nikolai Rudd, 31, of the Eclipse Mill artist-occupied loft complex, said he’d love to do his clothes shopping in the downtown, but he can’t; there is no city-based men’s clothing store to accommodate him.

“There hasn’t been a men’s clothing store in the city since the Gateway store closed,” Rudd said during an Oct. 11 interview. “I know that with a lot townsfolk, myself included, we want to spend our money in North Adams. I wouldn’t like to spend my money at Wal-mart to purchase clothes if I didn’t have to. But in North Adams, Wal-mart is it for men’s clothes, and it’s sad.”

Rudd is among eight incumbent city councilors and seven challengers vying for nine city council seats during a Nov. 8 city election. City Councilor William Donovan announced in September that he will be moving from the city and is no longer seeking reelection to the council.

Rudd came to the city as a teen-aged youth in 1990 and is a graduate of Drury High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in theater studies with a concentration on mass communication from Guilford College in North Carolina, and lived in Wilmington, N.C. for two years. He returned to the city in 2001. Rudd is an artist and has earned a teaching certificate at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

He is also a rental property owner. Rudd is not married and has no children.

His city council interest is multi-faceted, Rudd said.

“I think the first thing is I’ve been living here for 15 years on and off,” he said. "I bought my first house here, so I became a landlord when I moved out [to the Eclipse Mill]. I planted a seed, so to speak, in North Adams. More importantly, I’ve always worked with my dad [artist and property developer Eric Rudd] on his ideas for the city.”

Coming Home

A number of his high school friends are returning to the city “to put their energies into re-visualizing North Adams,” Rudd said and added that the growing artist community also sparked his political interest.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is luring young people to the city, Rudd said. Many young adults want to connect with a New York City-caliber arts facility without actually living in New York City, he said.

“And I think a chance to start their business is a little more easy to do here than it is down there because everything costs more money down there,” he said.

Foot Traffic on Wheels

Increasing foot traffic to the downtown is a front-burner issue, Rudd said, and outlined several ideas that he believes would fit that purpose.

“When we were campaigning [collecting nomination signatures], you could walk up and down Main Street and some days there were people, some days, sparsely, to say the best,” he said. “Where were they? You could go to Wal-mart, and they were everywhere. Go to Big Y [supermarket], people are there. Our commerce, instead of being downtown, it’s gone to the outskirts. Wouldn’t it be great to get some of that back?”

A well-run roller skating rink situated in the downtown could fill several needs, Rudd said. Such a venue would provide exercise, offer recreation to all age groups, and generate repeat traffic to the downtown.

A rink would likely draw high school and college students to the city’s hub, Rudd said.

“What you don’t have – and this was as true when I was in high school as it is now- there is no place for a high school person to go downtown to spend Friday or Saturday evening,” he said.

Rudd said that as a high school student, he believed the former Roberts Co. building was a potential youth recreation site.

“It is at the end of Main Street, it’s big enough, and it has handicapped accessibility,” Rudd said. “It would probably still make a great club, and it’s still currently vacant, and it’s right across from MASS MoCA.”

Evening Hours

Downtown improvements are visible, Rudd said. Store vacancy rates along Main and Eagle streets have declined since he returned to the city, he acknowledged. Increased foot traffic and a variety of business venues are needed in the downtown, he said.

“In addition for the places for adults to go, we need places for the kids to go, for the families to go and we need the places for the college students to go.”

Coffee shops and “Internet cafes” could generate downtown traffic, Rudd said and added that more businesses should remain open during evening hours.

“One of the complaints from the [college] freshmen is that there’s no draw downtown, other than Gideon’s [Eagle Street eatery and music venue],” he said.

Students also said that they would likely venture downtown for coffee or snacks after completing evening classes, if an appealing place was open, Rudd said.

“It’s kind of like we are shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said of late afternoon store closings. “We need to kind of take the blinders off a little bit and look at the big picture.”

City Councilors could generate discussions about downtown evening opportunities and develop strategies in cooperation with city Mayor John Barrett III, Rudd said.

City Meeting

He isn’t familiar with the precise scope of council authority, but is aware the council has some legislative power, Rudd said.

“[Councilors] have power and could probably have more power in city government, if we want to revisit the charter for the city and expand the power,” Rudd said.

Rudd said city councilors should initiate a more active role within the city by conducting research and Internet searches to discover business opportunities that might meet city needs.

City residents should increase their involvement in city growth, Rudd said, and suggested a “city meeting” as a way to hear from residents.

“Have a city meeting, invite the townspeople of North Adams to talk about the city issues they see, and listen to what the demands are for them,” Rudd said.

If housing is part of a K-mart development plan, Rudd said that the city council may have some control over project aesthetics.

“I would encourage them to be steadfast about preserving the historical nature of the downtown, because that’s what makes it beautiful,” Rudd said.

Rudd said that he believes the city should strive to inject business into a K-mart proposal. “Foot traffic” and “commerce” must be improved, he said.

Big Draw

“How do we do that?” he asked. “Do we use the trolley to get the 60,000 to 100,000 people who visit MoCA two blocks away to visit our stores and restaurants? Will we need promotion?”

Rudd said that any city promotions should include more than “big names” such as MASS MoCA and the Porches. Other arts venues and downtown shops should be prominently featured as well, he said.

“Put all these people on the map and use it as the big draw,” he said.

Hand-In-Hand

A willingness to consider ideas “outside of the normal thinking” may be necessary to generate employment opportunities, Rudd said. He said that new jobs won’t come from manufacturing or a single business source.

The arts and technology are moving toward a “hand-in-hand” relationship, Rudd said, and noted that small, independent film companies, mass media outlets, and other business arenas are relying on computer graphics, programs such as Photo Shop, and computer-aided drafting to conduct business and promote their endeavors.

“People are looking for employees with those skills,” he said. “I would hope that some of the arts and programs could are expanded in the schools, especially if we are talking about expanding the school day.”

If elected, Rudd will bring ideas to the council, he said.

“Whether they are good or bad, I have lots of ideas,” he said and added that ideas will generate discussion within the council and the community.

He is willing to bring ideas from city residents to the council, he said.

“Even if things get shot down, I’m not afraid to bring them up,” he said.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.

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