image description
An illustration of the exterior front entrance (facing north) of the Norad Mill, part of a site plan application for mixed-use commercial development.

North Adams' Norad Mill Gaining Tenants; Approvals Delayed a Month

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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A signage plan using wood from the 150-year-old mill to indicate businesses located at 60 Roberts Drive. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday had to put on hold approvals for new businesses moving into the Norad Mill. 
 
Developer David Moresi, who purchased the 150-year-old Excelsior Mill earlier this year and resurrected its original name, came with plans for some of the exterior changes and two new tenants. 
 
But while detailing some of the newest tenants, he revealed that Berkshire Health Systems was renting space for storage — which meant that three of the planners could not vote on the site plan to avoid any conflict of interest. 
 
Chairman Michael Leary, Vice Chairman Paul Hopkins and Lawrence Taft are all employed by BHS in varying capacities. That left only five planners, with Robert Burdick absent; it was enough for a quorum but not enough for the required two-thirds vote.
 
Instead, the three BHS employees recused themselves, and the plans were presented and their public hearings continued until next month. 
 
Moresi wasn't too disappointed, saying he expected to be bringing more tenants forward next month. The mill now has a dozen tenants in place or committed to a lease, 10 more than when Moresi & Associates bought the mill in May. 
 
"We're pretty overwhelmed with the tenant response," he said. "This is going to be a multiple-year project and we're going to be working from the inside out. ... 
 
"We're going to hold true to our word to bring in businesses and trickle-down jobs to North Adams."
 
Moresi's site plan encompasses a mixed use development of storage, manufacturing, office space and possibly some retail. The mill sits on three acres of land, has around 100,000 square feet, several loading docks, a freight elevator and another elevator being installed. Some landscaping has already been done and along with some painting and exterior lights.
 
The mill's a massive project and, so far, most of the interior work has been relatively minor. But still, the company's manpower is being a bit overwhelmed at the pace of events, he said, and he's trying to stagger it out a little. 
 
Two businesses looking to relocate into the mill are Cold Spring Coffee Roasters (Tunnel City Coffee) and Rocko Minerals. Tunnel City, a well  known name in the area, has been running its roasting and distribution center out of Western Gateway Heritage State Park. 
 
Owner Paul Lovegreen opened the coffee roasters on Spring Street, Williamstown, in 1992; since then, the operation expanded into Heritage Park, opened a coffeehouse on Spring Street and, later at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and another location just recently in the Williams College Bookstore, also on Spring Street. 
 
"What we're gaining from this move is a very good landlord, someone who's invested in the coummunty," Lovegreen said, and double the space for nonperishable goods to support the three locations. The paper goods alone are piling up at the Spring Street kitchen; moving them to the Norad Mill opens up more space for baking in the original Spring Street coffeehouse. 
 
He also expected to increase the amount of roasting as well, going from three days a week to every day. Lovegreen also sees the potential for self-financing the mill location through a more robust online business. 
 
"Because we produce our own product, we want to make a name for ourselves through our whole bean coffee," he said. 
 
While Tunnel City is seeing a boost in business, so is Rocko Minerals, which has been located in New York State since its founding by Robert Rosenblatt more than 20 years ago. 
 
His daughter, Melli Rose, the company's marketing manager, said the business had grown to the point it needed more space. 
 
"I spent six months looking at properties all over New York State, Massachusetts and Vermont, and when I found the Norad mill was going to be looking for tenants, I immediately scheduled a visit," she said. "Both my father and I were overwhelmed with the potential for the space but also for what we do, it's the perfect location."
 
She said their customer base is similar to that of the local arts venues.
 
"North Adams' vibe correlates with what we're looking for for our business," Rose said. 
 
The company deals with natural, not polished, minerals such as quartz and agate. The space would be used for warehousing, offices, online distribution and showcasing by appointment. All of the company's infrastructure would move here and there is the possibility of adding on a few more employees. 
 
"We've seen a lot of growth in just the last year and a half in this business, so it's an exciting time," Rose said. 
 
All three matters related to the Norad Mill were continued to next month by a unanimous vote of five. 
 
The board also gave the nod to a restaurant at the under construction Tourists project; and the use of 87 Main St. and a suite of offices at 85 Main St. by Terra Nova Church. 
 
Paul Gordon, the pastor, said the suite would be used for the church's offices and 87 Main would become "The Green," a multi-use facility for gatherings and events as a way to bring the church into the community and serve as a place for worship on Sundays.
 
The congregation began meeting about 18 months ago and now numbers about 50 adults and children. It's been meeting in the home of Stephen Klass, vice president for campus life at Williams, who joked to the planners, "I could really use your help."
 
The idea, he said, was to flip the traditional practice of buying a church or historic building and instead create an open space as part of the community rather than invite the community into the church. 
 
Both The Green and the offices would be nonprofit as religious uses.
 
Also approved was C&S Auto and Power Sports for property located at 537 Ashland St. to operate an automotive repair shop. 
 
Owner Corey Fortin told the board that he had been trying to relocate his business after being in Pownal, Vt., for a few years. He liked the Ashland Street location and working with the owner, John Duquette. 
 
"A lot of my customers are from this area so I wanted to move here and I needed a bigger place," he said. 
 
The board approved his application with the condition that no more than a dozen vehicles be parked on the lot; Fortin was agreeable, saying he pushed people to pick up their vehicles the same day. 
 
The board also approved rebranding signage for O’Reilly Auto Parts, formerly known as Bond Auto, and Smith Watson at 85 Main; and a sandwich board help sign for Berkshire Family And Individual Resources at 771 South Church St. 

Tags: mill reuse,   norad,   Planning Board,   

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