A file photo of the former Northern Berkshire Family Practice building on Budd Dougherty Drive.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — With state approval, the Airport Commission officially accepted the former family medicine building as a gift from Berkshire Health Systems to use as the new administrative building.
The commission voted Wednesday to officially accept the building as a creative solution to a funding issue that nearly stopped the administrative building project from taking off.
"This didn't have to happen and I think it was the creativity of this commission to say that we can do this for $2 million less than you can," Mayor Richard Alcombright said. "The state saw the light and they reacted very favorably so we are pleased with that."
It was originally slated as a nearly $4.5 million construction project that was part of the state Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Administrative Building Program. The state would cover 95 percent of the cost and the city would be responsible for the remaining 5 percent.
The commission was nearing completion of a design when the project was scrapped from the program because of budgetary issues in fiscal 2017.
Alcombright said he did approach David Phelps, CEO of Berkshire Health Systems, some two years ago and asked about the now vacant building that sits on the airport campus along Budd Dougherty Drive.
"He was very receptive and thankfully he went to his board and they approved it," he said. "They would give the city the building at the appropriate time."
The standalone building was acquired by BHS along with the other assets of the bankrupt Northern Berkshire Healthcare three years ago. The building had been built as a doctors practice, which has since moved the former hospital campus.
The commission in conjunction with the city came up with a new plan in which they would move the BHS building to a more suitable location, renovate it and use it as the new administrative building for $2.5 million.
This project was given the green light by MassDOT on Monday and is a go for fiscal 2018.
"I think it is a wonderful thing for the airport and when it is all said in done, the cost to the airport is nothing," Stantec engineer Peter Enzien said. "They will end up with a state-of-the-art facility here that will meet the needs of the airport and its users."
Enzien said the first phase of the project will be to actually move the building back 500 feet and install the necessary utilities. The concrete slab the building currently sits on will be removed.
Architect David Westall, of Westall Architects, said the building will fit in the footprint of the new build design and some of the design work has already been completed.
"We are off to a good start because we aren't starting with a blank piece of paper," Westall said. "This building would have most likely been torn down so this is a wonderful reuse of an existing building."
He added that the doctors building is actually bigger than the original new build design. The new build was designed to be 4,500 feet but the BHS building is 5,300 square feet.
Westall said depending on the design, this square footage could be extended if the commission decides to add basement or attic rooms to the plan.
There will be a main lobby, a fixed-base operator's office, a secondary office, a conference room, a class room, a pilot lounge and a small restaurant that will hold 50 to 75 people with an outside eating area.
He said the building will be completely gutted and new mechanical, electrical and plumbing will be installed.
Wetsall said public meetings will be held to help further square off the design.
Enzien said the design phase should be complete in February and the project could be put out to bid in March. Construction could begin in the spring and the project could be completed by next fall.
Alcombright thanked the commission, MassDOT, BHS and the governor's office and said the building will be an important addition to the airport and the city.
"I think it is pretty evident that everyone wanted an airport administrative building for quite some time," he said. "We have a great place for everyone to land but nowhere for them to go to the bathroom. We really don't have any services once people come out to our airport and it is critical that we do."
All present commissioners voted in favor of the acceptance of the building except for Trevor Gilman, who abstained because of a possible conflict of interest.
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