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The glass and steel curved building on Ashland Street is being put on the market for $259,000.
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The door on the left will be the new side entrance, taking the place of the glass entrance on the right.
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Spacious rooms on the second floor are being prepared as classrooms.
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The parlors on the first floor off the Assembly Hall are being cleared for office space.
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Built in 1960, the curved building as six retail spaces and space on the second floor for offices or residential.

North Adams Church Selling Downtown Building

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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First Congregational is updating space within the church building for its Sunday school classrooms and offices.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — First Congregational Church is selling off retail property on Ashland Street that it's owned for more than 100 years.

Lois Daunis, a member of the congregation's Facilities Committee, said the decision was made in late 2014 to divest the 1960-building because it no longer suited the church's needs.

"The church said, this building is not really necessary and we don't have a big volunteer army to manage the retail, so why are we keeping it?" she said. "If we don't need the space ... are we being good stewards?"

During the past year, the church planned out the logistics of relocating its offices and classrooms into the church building and modernizing where needed.

The two-story glass and steel structure was being listed on Friday with Steepleview Realty for $259,000. It contains six retail spots — three of which are rented — on the first floor and classrooms, offices, meeting rooms and storage on the second floor.

"It's a lot of space in a good location but it acknowledges it needs some work," Daunis said of the listing price.

Built in 1960, the structure was designed to provide needed space for the church's growing Sunday school and continue to bring in rental revenue.

"I think in the '60s when you had a baby boom, I imagine this church was overflowing," said Daunis, who came to the area a decade or so ago. "The church rolls certainly were much larger than any church's rolls are now."

The church has owned the property since about 1900; a three-story structure with residential units and five storefronts on Ashland Street was bought on behalf of the church by a "syndicate" of prominent parishioners. The congregation had been buying up properties surrounding the church during the first half of the last century and removed them to open up the lot.

The so-called Syndicate building was the last survivor until it was razed in 1959 to make way for the new building.

The congregation saw it at the time as "removing an eyesore and replacing with a modern structure which, at the same time, would provide the needed room for the Church School," according to the North Adams Transcript.

That space is no longer needed and church officials believe the best decision is to let the Ashland Street building go.

"I think this is just a good financial move for the church," said Daunis, adding that a sale will help "invigorate the endowment" to extend the church's life. Over the past decade, church officials have taken action to cut costs, including switching over to natural gas, as it dealt with the church's ongoing maintenance.  

Westall Architects is overseeing plans to bring the areas being used in the church up to code.

The parlor rooms on the ground floor are being redone as the pastor and administrative assistant's offices. Upstairs, two rooms are being redone as classrooms and the music ministry has already moved into a third room.

"They're rooms that haven't been used in awhile that are perfectly excellent rooms," Daunis said. "They're wonderful sized, they're kid friendly."

The relocation has required some improvements and building upgrades. Some of the measures have been as simple as a good cleaning and fresh coat of paint; others will include making the banisters higher to conform with code and renovating an aged second-floor bathroom.

New windows have also been installed and McCann Technical School students created and installed safe and decorative covers on the radiators and heating pipes.

"What we're trying to do is have everything downstairs for handicapped and senior accessibility and have things upstairs that are more kid [activities]," she said.

"It's going to meet all our needs as a church and not affect the Berkshire Food Project, which is really important."

A view of Ashland in this post card from around 1910 shows two buildings on the left razed by the church around 1934; the 'Syndicate' building to their right was taken down in 1959.

The glassed-in breezeway connecting the Ashland Street building to the church will be removed to physically separate the structures.

The new owner will have access to the back part of the building where the current entrance is to the Ashland Street block's second floor but the church will relocate its side entrance to a long unused door facing Main Street. A second blocked-up door in the back off Summer Street will also be reopened.  

"Basically, we'll be reinvigorating two entrances we haven't used in years," said Daunis. The Main Street entrance will be configured with a ramp so those in wheelchairs will no longer have to enter through the kitchen for the Berkshire Food Project, which offers free lunch in the Assembly Hall on weekdays.

The back door will provide entrance to both the Assembly Hall and a staircase to classrooms on the second floor.

The congregation expects to remain in the commercial building at least through the end of Sunday school in June, when the new rooms will be prepared for reopening in the fall. The pastor's office is expected to open much sooner.

"We want to create new opportunities to celebrate God's gift of life, free to be the church God calls us to be in this new age," said the Rev. Carolyn Peck in a statement.

Tags: church,   downtown,   Real Estate,   

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