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Spring Street Development 90 Days From Completion

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Mark Paresky discusses the progress at 61 Spring St., which is being renovated for retail and office space. Top: Paresky watches Champlain Masonry worker Jeffrey Crofts sign an I-beam on the addition.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The completion of the $4 million development of the former Hopkins Furniture Store building is just 90 days away.

So said owner and developer Mark Paresky on Thursday as the final steel I-beam was hoisted into place on the four-story addition on the back of the century-old building.

"This project is about destination downtown Williamstown," Paresky told local leaders and others gathered at the 61 Spring St. site at noon. "This project will bring a new quality of retail, restaurant and office to Spring Street. This project makes downtown Williamstown a more attractive destination for visitors and improves the density of Spring Street, creating a critical mass of shopping and dining experience."

Paresky, a major Spring Street landlord, is betting that the siren call of an already bustling shopping district surrounded by the nation's top liberal arts college will attract tenants to the expanded and environmentally conscious structure. He's confident the building will be seen as prime real estate despite the current economic downturn.

"You will be able to see Mount Greylock from every office window but like in an urban setting, you'll be able to step out onto spring street for shopping and lunch," he said. "This is certainly a desirable space."

The 63,000-square-foot structure will include at least two restaurant spaces, three retail openings on the first floor, regular offices and an office suite with more flexible leasing and space, and a "penthouse" office on top of the original building with an open deck above the third floor.

Paresky is shooting to obtain LEED gold status through the use of high-efficiency heating and cooling mechanisms and materials, insulation, and the use of recycled and regional products where ever possible.

The town and college leaders have been supportive of the venture, which they see as adding to the vibrancy of the town's main shopping district. The Spring Street area was incorporated into a new Village Business District this spring.

A flag and the traditional pine tree top the final beam placed on the four-story addition Thursday morning.
"It's a phenomenal commitment for Mark to invest into the community, into Williamstown in this economic time," said Town Manager Peter Fohlin. "This is about the future. The exterior renovation is faithful for Spring Street and the interior renovation faithful to the environment."

This past May, former Hopkins Funeral Home was demolished — as was the back part of the furniture building — opening up a pedestrian way and limited vehicle access for 12 assigned parking spots. A glassed-in expansion on the first floor will include a second-floor deck.

There's a commitment for two offices (including prior occupant Overland Travel) and for a prime spot on the first floor. Paresky declined to name the tenant, saying the business owner wanted to make his own announcement.

Also hanging like a ripe plum for the picking is the Purple Pub. The iconic Williamstown eatery will be located in the first floor of the new back addition with large folding doors to open it to a small patio for dining and view of Spring Street.

Paresky's eager to lease the name and the space. "We're looking for an entrepreneur with restaurant and bartending experience who will be the owner," he said. "There's so much goodwill with the name, who wouldn't want to own it?"

It was the pub's fiery demise two years ago that in part sparked Paresky's decision to renovate the Hopkins building next door. The building the pub was in, which also contained a Subway, was demolished after sitting vacant for two years; Paresky is planning another four-story structure there. The site's currently a small park.

The focus right now is getting the Hopkins project completed and Paresky assured those at the site it would be move-in ready in 90 days — even as workers and guests signed a bare I-beam on the still skeletal form. 

"In a down economy, we in Williamstown are building for the future and we're doing it using green technologies and employing hundreds," said Paresky, but added "I want to spread the word about availability [of space]. I'd like you to spread the word. ... so if somebody wants to own the Purple Pub, you and your friends can own the Purple Pub."
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Clark Art Celebrates Earth Day

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. The Clark Art Institute celebrates Earth Day on Thursday, April 22, with two guided programs that invite visitors to connect with nature and art on the Clark's campus. 
Clark educators lead ninety-minute outdoor experiences that inspire participants to write, draw, move, and more as they explore the unique natural settings of the "Ground/work" exhibition. All participants will be provided with a blank "field journal" and pencil to record their thoughts and creations.
A 10:30 am walk starts at the Lunder Center at Stone Hill and features Nairy Baghramian's "Knee and Elbow," Eva LeWitt's "Resin Towers," and Kelly Akashi's "A Device to See the World Twice." At 1 pm, a second walk begins on the Fernández Terrace at the Clark Center and features Analia Saban's "Teaching a Cow How to Draw," Jennie C. Jones's "These (Mournful) Shores," and Haegue Yang's "Migratory DMZ Birds on Asymmetric Lens."
Both walks may involve uneven terrain. Participants are advised to wear appropriate clothing and footwear and prepare for a moderate hike.
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