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
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College Notes: June 2021

Four local juniors attending Worcester Polytechnic Institute completed their required research-driven, professional-level project that applies science and technology to addresses an important societal need or issue.
Augustine Asumadu of Pittsfield, majoring in management information systems, completed the project titled "Launching a Competitive Robotics Team" with Namibia Project Center.
• Mary Decelles of Pittsfield, majoring in mechanical engineering, completed the project titled "The Bright Darkness" with London Project Center.
• Danielle Lablanc of Pittsfield, majoring in mechanical engineering, completed the project titled "Futbol Sin Pobreza" with Paraguay Project Center.
• Adelaide McFarland of Great Barrington, majoring in biology and biotechnology, completed the project titled "Assessing Land Change" with Puerto Rico Project Center.
Julia O'Connor of Dalton has been inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society chapter at Curry College in Milton. Theta at Large began in 1953 when it was chartered as only the seventh chapter of Sigma Theta Tau. Boston University was the "institution of record" until 1990 when it was re-chartered to include Curry College and Simmons College in Boston.


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