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Sue Bush
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Buying Into the Downtown

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Scarafoni Associates Managing Partner David Carver
North Adams – The verdict is in: people will pay to live on Main Street.

Home Sweet Downtown Home

A professional couple from the Boston area are the first buyers to purchase a downtown loft-style condominium. The unit is one of two living spaces currently being built at 77 Main St. above the Moulton’s General Store.

Announcement of the $250,000 sale came on Jan. 23 during an afternoon media conference hosted by Scarafoni Associates managing partner David Carver and Alan Marden, the Alton and Westall Real Estate development director.

Alton and Westall Development Director Alan Marden, who is also a North Adams city councilor.
Marden also serves as an elected city councilor.

The under-construction 1,600-square-foot two-bedroom, two-story loft will be a second home for the couple, Marden said.

The sale is expected to close on July 1. The buyers became acquainted with the city after visiting several times, and at one point discovered the city’s trove of historical information and items. The couple told Marden that the city’s historical collection is among the best they’d ever encountered, Marden said.

The second living space is a one-story, 1,000-square foot unit that will feature high ceilings and has an asking price of $187,500, Carver said.

“And there’s interest in this [space], so that’s good,” Marden said.

Modern Living Within Historical Walls

Downtown housing has shifted from a concept to a reality across the country, Carver said, and noted that during the 1800s and early 1900s, the downtown was a hotbed of homes for the city’s movers and shakers.

As decades passed, much of the residential space became office space, but demand for office space has declined, Carver said.

And demand for quality housing has jumped, he noted.

“These spaces make charming, unique housing,” Carver said. “We are looking to bring housing back to the downtown. Fortunately, these historic buildings were preserved and spared the wrecking ball [of the 1960s and 1970s urban renewal efforts].”

The result is modern living space designed within historic, elegant architecture, complete with a bird’s-eye view of the downtown arena -and parking. Building occupants are able to utilize parking space constructed behind the building and shared with the Hoosac Bank and downtown visitors.

A New Generation of Neighborhood

Mayor John Barrett III said that he has long been an advocate of downtown housing.

“I’ve been talking about this for seven years; the downtown opportunity,” Barrett said during a telephone interview. “I’ve felt that if the property owners would build these apartments, these condos, people would buy them. It’s the generation of a new neighborhood for the city. A downtown neighborhood is convenient, it’s accessible, and it has the amenities. There is so much opportunity.”

Barrett agreed that, with the recently announced First Hartford Realty retail plans for the former K-mart plaza, the availability of office space at the Hoosac Bank building, the loft sale and the downtown residential development plans, things are progressing within the city’s hub.

The business/neighborhood mix is something Barrett said he’s believed was the key to a thriving downtown.

Downtown resident Dora Harkins lives above Main Street.

“I have harped on this for a long time, and some people thought I was crazy,” Barrett said. “But people thought I was crazy when I talked about MASS MoCA, too.”

Downtown Living

Scarafoni Associates is the force behind renovated rental units at 69 Main Street. Downtown living is a wonderful experience, according to building tenants James R. and Dora Harkins. Harkins is a retired church pastor.

The Harkins’ moved to the city’s downtown about two years ago to be closer to their daughter Anna Maria Harkins, who lives in Florida with her husband Jonathan Secor.

“We enjoy living here,” said Harkins during a tour of his apartment. “What we especially like is that they’ve used the space in a creative and unique way. Each apartment is different.”

Interior walls showcase much of the building's original brick and that was an enticement for Dora Harkins, she said. Large windows also appealed to her, she said.

James Harkins spoke from a bright kitchen situated in a downtown apartment.
“That attracted me even more, the view,” she said.

Hoosac Bank and Williamstown Savings Bank Chief Financial Officer Donald Keagan leases a two-story unit that features one-and-a-half bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, and a living room. Keagan has occupied the property for about two years and is very pleased with the living space, he said.

Leased spaces at 69 Main Street cost between $750 and $1200 monthly with heat included, Carver said.

"Everybody Wins"

Work is underway at a Holden Street building to erect several large townhouses that will be offered for sale. Two living spaces at that property are currently leased, Carver said. Future plans include creating living space at the New Kimball building at 85 Main Street and a complete renovation and creation of new living space at the Dowlin Block at 103 Main St., Carver said.

The new housing will likely lead to new business development, including small businesses that cater to the needs of downtown residents, Carver and Marden said.

“Everybody wins,” Carver said of downtown neighborhood development.

Additional Scarafoni Associates projects are enjoying success; an extensive renovation and rehabilitation of the former Plunkett hospital in Adams led to the creation of 16 living spaces.

Currently, three of the units are available for purchase and 13 units have been sold.

The projects are successful because of the company’s high development standards, said Marden.

“What you are seeing is the quality of this developer,” he said. “Quality construction and rehabilitation is key to making this construction work.”

"We're Getting There"

Downtown housing is a “back to the future” concept, Marden said.

“We’re going to be bringing more housing of all types and people of all types to the downtown,’ he said. “We will have luxurious housing in a historic, renovated downtown. What we are talking about is going back to where we were at the turn of the century. Back then, this was housing and it was upscale housing.”

A decorative fireplace adorns one corner of Donald Keagan's downtown apartment.

A return of upscale housing to the downtown is generating increasing interest among potential buyers, Marden said, and added that the idea of new business coming to the area adds to the appeal.

“We’re getting there,” Marden said. “It’s going to happen.”

Additional information about Scarafoni Associates and residential development projects is available at a Internet web site.

Additional information about the Alton and Westall Real Estate firm is available at a Internet web site.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or at 802-823-9367.
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