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Alterations are planned for the interior but the exterior won't change much.
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David Carver said it would be most cost-effective to put in four units rather than try to fit in more.
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The second-story unit would take advantage of the large window in the front.

North Adams Planners OK Residential Refit of Former Church

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The former Our Lady of Mercy Church will be subdivided from the next-door Holy Family Terrace and turned into market-rate housing.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The former Our Lady of Mercy Church at 635 State Road will be refitted as a residential apartment complex.

The Planning Board gave approval on Monday night to the plans of WDM Properties LLC, an arm of Scarafoni Associates.

"It is our proposal to turn the existing former Holy Family church into four market-rate apartments," David Carver told the planners. The bulk of the changes will be made to the interior, he said. "There will be no additions or deletions from the exterior structure."

The only significant exterior changes would be the removal of about four parking spaces, the expansion of a grassy area and two trees planted in the front for road screening.

Carver said the 4,300-square-foot, 1916 church was similar in size and shape to St. Raphael's Church in Williamstown, which Scarafoni renovated 2011 and manages as affordable housing.

He said the church building was in very good condition for its age and has a concrete foundation and steel beams.

The structure will be divided up into four two-bedroom apartments. They would be rather large apartments, Carver said, because it was not cost effective to try to fit five or six units (St. Raphael's also has four units). The units would not be subsidized in any way.

"There is no government money involved in this project," he said to a question from an abuttor.

Historical Commission Chairwoman Justyna Carlson said the commission was happy with the plans. Mayor Richard Alcombright said it will preserve the building for many years to come.

"This building has historic relevance to that neighborhood," said Alcombright, who attended the meeting for the adoption of the city's Vision 2030 master plan. "For several years, I have been working with Berkshire Housing ... to try to find federal ways to procure that building and utilize it with the existing Holy Family Terrace to no avail. The federal monies have dried up."

The Shell station is getting cosmetic changes.

There is reportedly some concern amongst the residents of Holy Family Terrace, a 24-year-old senior housing facility on property owned by the Diocese of Springfield and managed by Berkshire Housing Corp., about the parking situation.

Carver said he was aware that the seniors were worried about being able to move their cars over to the church parking lot during snowstorms so theirs could be plowed. The property will be subdivided when it is purchased to separate the two lots.

"I have talked to them extensively about their needs," he said.

The church is the latest to be sold off for reuse after the closure of a number of churches throughout the diocese in 2007. A second church on the agenda, the former Our Lady of the Incarnation at 1288 Massachusetts Ave., was approved as the headquarters for the non-profit Berkshire Nursing Families. The building was purchased in 2007 by William Girard.

The board also adopted without discussion the city's new master plan, which has been in the works for nearly three years. The plan has had input from residents, businesses and other stakeholders, and had a well-attended public hearing on April 29 that was recorded and reshown several times by Northern Berkshire Community Television.

The mayor thanked the Planning Board for its support of the plan. The City Council is expected to endorse the plan, as well.

"I'm looking at this as our road map for growth in the future ... there's something in it for everyone and everything," said the mayor.

Also approved were:

An application by Michael Jackson of North Adams to operate a used-car sales lot at 429 Curran Highway on the condition he work with the Community Development Department on signage and the number of cars appropriate for the lot.

An application by Berkshire Medical Center to locate the VNA & Hospice of Northern Berkshire in offices at 26 Union St., the former Wall-Streeter Co., and Ecu-Health Care. Thomas Romeo, vice president of Berkshire Health Systems' Physician Services, said the building "seemed like a very convenient locatoin for the community." Ecu-Health Care, which helps people find health insurance, had been provided space gratis at the former North Adams Regional Hospital; Romeo said BHS was doing likewise. (Chairman Michael Leary and Vice Chairman Paul Hopkins recused themselves as the spokesman and former spokesman of the health-care entities involved.)

An application by Jamie Zdon to operate a taxicab business from 1190 South State St. Zdon said the site would be the headquarters but the three ambulatory cabs would be housed at each driver's home.

The board also received a letter from Joslin Fritz informing them her family would continue operating the Inn on East Main Street following the death of her mother, Nancy Joslin Fritz Torkington, in March; from Sarah Thurston, of North Adams Tower Co., saying a single tower will be installed to replace the two that fell in March on the Mohawk Trail; and from O'Connell & Associates about changes to the Shell station canopy on Curran Highway.

Tags: apartments,   church,   church reuse,   

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