North Adams Wins $881K MassWorks Grant for Heritage Park

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The city has been hoping to revive Heritage State Park as a retail and historic destination. A MassWorks grant announced Friday will help improve access to the park.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The redevelopment of Western Gateway Heritage State Park is getting a boost with a $881,488 MassWorks grant announced on Friday.

The park is one of 26 projects receiving some $38 million in MassWorks Infrastructure Program grants from the Patrick-Murray administration. Also being funded is the $500,000 restoration of the Foley Bridge on the Canaan Southfield Road in New Marlborough and $971,053 toward the repair of Clesson Brook Road in Buckland damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

"Our quest here is to create as much of a public/private partnership as we can for Heritage State Park to ensure it succeeds and this is a huge next step in this process," said Mayor Richard Alcombright.

Alcombright has been hoping to get the languishing park back on track and, in June, with the Redevelopment Authority, selected a nonprofit arm of the Partnership for North Adams as the private developer. But since then, the mayor said he's been looking at other funding options and development scenarios before negotiating a final agreement with the partnership.

"It's been a one drawn-out process securing the park as a vital retail center," he said. "I started working with our consultant at the Mohawk Theater thinking that there may be a better way go, looking at financing models, federal and state historic credits, New Market Credits, things like the MassWorks program to leverage against, for instance, a combined project of Mohawk Theater and Heritage State Park at some level.

"I don't know if we've fully determined that yet."

The MassWorks grant, administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, is a consolidation of six capital budget programs that gives communities a single, streamlined point of entry for applying for infrastructure, economic development and housing projects. Gov. Deval Patrick described the grants as "a key part of our growth strategy of investing in education, innovation and infrastructure to create jobs and spur economic development.

"By partnering with municipalities, these MassWorks projects will strengthen communities for generations to come," he said in a statement.

Alcombright said he'd been under the impression that such projects had to be "shovel ready" but after a MassWorks presentation at a recent Massachusetts Mayors Association meeting, realized the limited design work done for the park might be enough.

"After they were done talking, I followed them out of the room and introduced myself to Victoria Maguire," he said. He invited Maguire, administrator of the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, to visit the city. After walking through the theater and the park, and reviewing the park's plans, Maguire suggested the city apply.

It was the on the tail end of the grant deadline process but the city was able to put together a successful grant application in the final few weeks.

The funds announced on Friday will be used to improve the park entrance, upgrade landscaping, and improve pedestrian access between the park and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and downtown North Adams. The work is not expected to happen until next year.

Alcombright said, "unequivocally" the Partnership for North Adams will be integral to the management and operation of the former train yard. But he's hoping to scour more sources for funding, including talks with the Department of Conservation and Recreation about state investments since the park is to become the northern gateway to Mount Greylock State Reservation.

"We've spent the last four or five months really just working with consultants and kind of more internally regarding funding sources," he said. "We continue to look at different models and find different pockets of money to make all this stuff happen.

"This is just a first great big step."

Tags: Heritage State Park,   MassWorks grant,   state grant,   

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