Fox Eyes Professional Park on Curran Highway

By Tammy DanielsPrint Story | Email Story
Charles Fox, second from right, and Richard Isacoff.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Williamstown real estate developer Charles Fox has a vision for the deteriorating building that now houses the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The property at 420 Curran Highway was sold for $670,000 at foreclosure auction to the estate of Benjamin Drew on Monday in a deal that will transfer the property to Fox and partner Gordon Leete.

Fox hopes to develop the three-acre site into a professional office park, housing public service agencies and related professionals.

"It makes sense to get all the public services together," he said, noting the property's convenient location on Curran Highway along the bus route.

"Our first priority is to address all of the code-enforcement issues," said Fox. "That will also mean cleaning up and spiffing up. Then we'll set about redesigning it to look more aesthetically pleasing."

Mayor John Barrett III said the new owners will have to move quickly on fixing the property - the building has serious health and safety issues.

"He knows as well as anybody it was going to have to be condemned," said the mayor of Fox. Berkshire Bank had addressed some of the immediate problems and the city held off on condemning the structure. There was no desire to evict the tenants, especially the registry, knowing a new owner was likely, he said.

Local landlord Richard Doherty had purchased the 23,000-square-foot building and three acres for $780,000 just one year ago. Over the past four or five years, Doherty has bought up 30 or so multitenant properties along with the former Quinn's Paint and Wallpaper building on Canal Street.

But much of his real estate empire has landed in foreclosure in the past year and he's been frequently cited in Adams and North Adams for failing to maintain his properties.

The registry building is no exception. The structure looks abandoned - its gardens overrun with weeds, its grass unmowed.

Some $30,700 in property taxes is owed to the city. The building is assessed at $850,000 and generates about $147,000 in rents.

Attorney Richard Isacoff, who represented the Drew estate at the auction, said the family wanted to ensure that the building and tenants would be taken care of and to protect their own interests.<L2>

The late Benjamin Drew had owned the former K-K Home Mart on the site until the lumberyard closed in the late 1980s. The estate held the second mortgage on the property.


"They want to get out with North Adams feeling good," said Isacoff, referring to Drew's son and daughter. "We're hoping to get cooperation from the city. We've got good tenants ... We want them to have a good landlord."

In addition to the registry, the building houses the BFAIR redemption center, the Brien Center's Adult Day Health Center, A-plus Vacations and Klean Kraft. Isacoff has also had an office in the building - which has lead tenants to complain to him about its condition.

A dozen or so bank officials and interested parties were at the noontime auction in the property's parking lot.

The bidding came down between Isacoff and a group of investors from Pittsfield - Charles Gian, Richard C. Kielman and Dana Carpenter.

Within minutes, the bidding was up to $600,000 but stalled at $650,000 as the Pittsfield group hesitated. Berkshire Bank officials huddled with auctioneer David A. Mendel of Aaron Posnik Auctioneers. Mendel came back and declared an absolute auction at $660,000 - in other words, the highest bidder would win no matter the reserve price. It was enough to pump the bidding up another $10,000 but after some debate, the Pittsfield group dropped out.

Fox said the figures were about what he expected. Leete had already been negotiating on the building when they realized they were interested in the same property.

The Pittsfield group, who together and separately have developed several properties in that city and South County, were still interested in investing in North Adams.

"We want to bring a bit of Pittsfield up here," said Kielman.

Michael Ferry, senior vice president of commercial lending at Berkshire Bank, was pleased with the outcome. "I think the management change in this property is a very good thing. We had very competent bidders here."

Fox said he's in this for the long haul in that he makes quality investments that are good for the city and the area.

"I hope they'll indicate that they will be supportive of the development of the building," he said of city officials. "We intend to develop this property as a significant tax player for the city of North Adams."

Tammy Daniels can be reached at tdaniels@iberkshires.com
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Northern Berkshire Adult Education Program Enrollment Open

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Adult Education Program is currently enrolling students for the spring semester. 
 
All classes and services are currently being conducted remotely. When possible, in person instruction will be offered.
 
The Northern Berkshire Adult Education Program offers classes to prepare for the Massachusetts High School Equivalency Credential. In addition to classes to prepare for the HISET or GED tests, they offer classes to help improve academic skills to enter postsecondary education, training programs, employment readiness and basic academic skills. 
 
The Northern Berkshire Adult Education Program will offer a course in Digital Literacy starting in February, for those individuals needing to learn digital literacy for the first time or to improve your current knowledge base. North Star Digital Literacy Curriculum will be utilized. Students who participate in this program will be eligible to take a credentialing exam to demonstrate competency in digital literacy.
 
All the programs of the Northern Berkshire Adult Education Program are free of charge funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education/Office of Adult and Community Learning Services.
 
For More information, please refer to our website at www.mcla.edu/abe to schedule an appointment to speak with someone about more information. 
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