Williamstown Asked To Buy Store At Five Corners
David Richardson said the South Williamstown Community Association would create a brand new non-profit group to run the Store at Five Corners.
On Tuesday, Barbara McLucas and David Richardson of the association is asking the Community Preservation Act Committee for $400,000 to purchase the store that has sat vacant for nearly a year.
However, the group does not know if the owner, Frank Lewis, is willing to sell only the store nor do they have a business plan in place for its continued operation. The store and the Green River Farm together is currently on the market for $5 million.
"The community wants that building to be alive," McLucas said. "At the very least you can open the door, serve coffee and have newspapers."
But the association is on the clock. The building is grandfathered into old zoning bylaws and if it does not reopen within 24 months, the store will not be able to operate commercially because it is in a residential neighborhood. The association hopes the $400,000 will be the "seed" for a capital campaign.
"We don't know whether he'll sell us just the store," McLucas said but added that the association would look at the possibility of buying the farm as well.
The association is looking for grants from the Berkshire Community Taconic Foundation and the state Historical Commission and private donations on top of the CPA funds. From there, they will purchase the store and form a new non-profit organization to run it.
Richardson said the total project, estimated at about $1 million by the association, would include the purchase, repairs to the building, legal cost, stock and operation for six months. Richardson also pointed to the association's track record of completing projects with the CPA funds, such as improvements to the Little Red School House.
Richardson also compared the project to last year's CPA funding of the Community Preschool's purchase of the First Methodist Church. Committee member Malcolm Smith agreed that the two projects bear some comparison, the unknowns of this proposal made the committee wary of the project.
"It's the speculative nature that concerns me," Smith said.
Committee member Dan Gendron said he understands the "importance" of that building but the town has bigger concerns right now. Affordable housing issues are much more important and buying the store would drain the town's resources for those project.
Also before the board this year is a proposal from the Affordable Housing Committee for $107,500 to research areas in town for development of a new housing project. This has been a project the newly formed Higher Ground organization has been spearheading in response to the flooding of the Spruces Mobile Home Park.
Elton Ogden has plans for an expansion (in blue) at Proprietors Field for elderly housing. That project will take at least three years to complete, he said.
"It's to have this project as close to shovel ready as possible," Elton Ogden, president of the Berkshire Housing Development Corp., said. "The proposal is to do the pre-development work only."
The non-profit organization will put in $15,000 of its own and apply for state and federal grants to complete the project. The proposal received support from Brian O'Grady, director of the Council on Aging, Catherine Yamamoto, chairman of the Affordable Housing Committee and Chris Winter, the only abutter to the project. Winters is also a member of the CPA committee but recused himself from board for this proposal.
Other projects seeking funding include $10,000 for the Cal Ripkin Baseball League to replace the scoreboard at Bud Anderson Field, an additional $4,000 for the 1753 House Committee to replace the house's chimney and $48,800 to finish the South Williamstown Historical Committee's efforts to replace the gravestones at Southlawn Cemetery.
Absent this time was a proposal to purchase the Sand Springs Pool. In November, Janette Dudley presented an application for a group of residents to purchase and operate the pool.
The CPA funds come from an additional 2 percent in taxes that is set aside each year to fund open space, historic preservation and affordable housing. The committee is expected to start voting on this year's recommendations at their next meeting, which will then go to the voters.
Tags: affordable housing, community preservation, South Williamstown, Spruces,