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.
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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wow, after 26 years of a former mayor planting flowers, we finally have a mayor who wants to plant the seeds of growth for the community
This whole thing stinks of patronage and backroom deals.
Whoever heard of The Partnership For North Adams before the recent series of breathless announcements?
As if out of nowhere the organization is announced little more than a month ago, and now Liberal Democrat ex-state rep Dan Bosley is appointed the organization’s new CEO (at an undisclosed salary, of course) .
This comes on the heels of Mr. Bosley’s dismal performance with voters in his race for Berkshire County sheriff. (He got trounced.)
A peek into the files of Office of Secretary of State William Galvin shows that PFNA was in fact registered back on April 30, 2010.
(That was just about the time when Mr. Bosley might have realized that his run for sheriff was not going to be the cakewalk he at first hoped it would be. Folks will recall it was on January 15, 2010 that Mr. Bosley first announced he was giving up his safe seat as representative from North Berkshire to throw his hat into the ring for county sheriff.)
Back in April 2010, though, when Partnership for North Adams was first incorporated, there was no fanfare whatsoever.
There was not a single press release from the principals who are today heralding its formation.
That public acknowledgment did not occur until 8 1/2 months later on January 10, 2011 when iBerkshires.com ran the above article entitled “MCLA, MoCA and North Adams Plan City’s Future”.
The same day, PFNA issued its so-called ‘Plan’.
So just what is PFNA?
The Partnership For North Adams is registered with the Commonwealth as a 501c3, tax-exempt charitable organization.
(It is thus totally subsidized by U.S. taxpayers since every buck in private contributions taken in is deducted off someone’s taxes — lost revenue to the U.S. Treasury that the federal government must raise in other ways to pay its bills.)
North Adams lawyer John B. DeRosa is listed on official documents as PFNA’s president and one of the organization’s three directors.
It is out of Mr. DeRosa’s offices that PFNA operates.
Mr. DeRosa has a long history of wheeling and dealing in North Adams real estate.
He also has for years been associated with Mass MoCA as the museum’s lawyer.
(It is Mr. DeRosa, for example, who, in 2000, was the ‘straw’ acting for one of Mass. MoCA’s big donors in transactions that resulted in the purchase for the donor of properties on River Street directly across from the museum that ultimately became Porches Inn.)
PFNA’s other two directors are Mary K. Grant, president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and Joseph C. Thompson, director of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass. MoCA), Mr. DeRosa’s long-time client.
Mr. Bosley’s appointment to PFNA comes not as a result of any competitive search for executive talent to fulfill the position, but quite obviously as a result of his close ties with Mr. DeRosa.
At PFNA, lack of transparency seems already to be the order of the day, as reporter Jennifer Huberdeau quickly discovered when she inquired as to Mr. Bosley’s salary and reported in The Berkshire Eagle that it was not being disclosed.
Why no disclosure, especially since PFNA is a tax-exempt 501c3 charitable institution run by principals from Mass MoCA, the city of North Adams, and MCLA, all of whose salaries are indeed in the public domain.
It is apparent that PFNA is nothing more than a vehicle by which Mr. DeRosa and his cronies can have control of a tax-exempt vehicle by which to access federal and state resources and grant monies to effect lucrative land deals at terms not available to other private investors.