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The city, Mass MoCA and MCLA developed a new plan to rebuild the city.

MCLA, MoCA and North Adams Plan City's Future

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
01:30PM / Monday, January 10, 2011
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Mayor Richard Alcombright sees the partnership as a way to get vacant properties back on the tax rolls.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Culture, tourism and education will be the backbone for a new public and private sector initiative to revive downtown.
 
Mayor Richard Alcombright joined on Monday with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary Grant, John DeRosa of DeRosa Dohoney LLP and Joseph Thompson, director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to announce a partnership of local groups.
 
The Partnership For North Adams will lend its expertise and efforts to attract private businesses to rebuild the city.
 
"This is just a tremendous beginning to a tremendous partnership. I think the public sector can only do so much on its own," Alcombright said. "Nothing really grows without capital investment, without the private sector. This public-private partnership will allow the private sector to come in and really think and build on this vision."
 
The city’s powerhouse institutions have set a plan for the future that includes:
 
Redeveloping the River Street and Ashland Street neighborhoods.
Growing educational influence along Church, East Main and Union streets. 
Creating a conference building on the south side of Main Street.
Creating a small wind farm on the Eastern ridge.
Developing the Hoosic River southward. 
 
“This is essentially a private sector initiative. It’s a proposal to attract private investment into the Northern Berkshire and North Adams economy,” DeRosa said. “There is still need in our community. I think we all understand that and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. But there is also opportunity.”
 
Representatives from the groups will form a board of directors. That board will be announced in a couple weeks, DeRosa said. From there, it will raise money to purchase available property, hire experts and plan development projects.
 
The partnership will benefit the college, Mass MoCA and the city: The city will claim more tax money, MoCA will see more patrons and the college will be able to expand.
 

MCLA President Mary Grant said the plan would allow the college to grow closer to downtown.
"Good ideas take a bold vision and they certainly take time. So nothing in here will happen overnight but we know that if we don’t start, don’t put ideas on the table, nothing will begin,” Grant said. "I firmly believe that the 21st century will be all about innovation and we aren't going to be innovative if we don’t have strong educational systems."
 
Laid out in a seven-page plan, the new group has a specific vision of the city's future. 
 
"The image is of cars arriving to our community with kayaks on their roof and bikes hanging on the back," Thompson said. "People are biking and hiking and taking in art and going to school."
 
The group will be funded by private developers and will be separate from other development groups in the area, said DeRosa. 
 
Redevelop Neighborhoods:
 
The community leaders believe that cluster housing around the museum and the college will help grow creative industries. The group plans to go after state and federal housing programs to help the private builders revive market-rate housing. 
 
Near the museum, River Street currently has nearly 30 empty lots because of recent demolition and deterioration. Redevelopment of that area would be focused on artist housing and museum intern housing.
 
Ashland Street, near the college, will be focused on student and faculty housing. 
 
"I love when I see my young faculty walking to work because I know they are in the neighborhood surrounding the college. That means they can build a deeper relationship with students, be good, active community members," Grant said. "Then we have alumni who want to put roots in the area when they graduate."
 
Establish Educational Opportunities:
 
The area of Church, East Main and Union streets includes the city-owned Notre Dame property and Conte Middle School, and the now-vacant Methodist church, which is for sale.  MCLA already purchased the Notre Dame rectory for alumni offices and its influence will grow in that sector to bring the college closer to downtown.
 
Conference Building On Main Street:
 
The partnership will help secure investment from the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to build a meeting hall. The proposed structure on the southern part of Main Street will connect Mass MoCA with Main Street and Western Gateway Heritage State Park. 
 
According to the plan, the space would spur development of new restaurants, hotels and shops to accommodate tourism and MCLA would also be able to expand programming with the space.
 
"At the end of the day it's not about signage. It's not about maps," Thompson said. "We get calls from corporations and other museums and they're looking for a place to have meetings. The Holiday Inn and Porches are really nice places but they don't have a meeting space."

Business leaders have frequently bemoaned the lack of convention facilities within the Berkshires.
 
Small Wind Farm On Eastern Ridge:
 

Attorney John DeRosa said the group already has funding prospects. The plan is aimed at attracting private businesses.
The group will attempt to form private investment using tax incentives to install six to eight wind turbines that will help power Mass MoCA, North Adams Regional Hospital and the city.
 
"This is not an industrial strength wind farm," Thompson said. “There is an equity-ownership formula there that would be a huge boon for everybody who lives in North Adams and certainly these three not-for-profit institutes."
 
Hoosic River Development:
 
The group plans to create a riverfront for the city encompassing recreational spaces near Noel Field Athletic Complex and a greenway connection between MCLA and Main Street.
 


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