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Store Manager Paul Hastings, left, Market Manager Donna Dunn-Greenwood and Ceruzzi Holdings Senior Vice President Kenneth G. Cartelli joined Mayor Richard Alcombright in celebrating the issuance of a bright yellow building for the

Walmart Supercenter Gets Go-Ahead in North Adams

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Mayor Richard Alcombright, Kenneth G. Cartelli of Ceruzzi Holdings and attorney Jay Sabin said the permitting process has been smooth if somewhat lengthy.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. —  A Walmart Supercenter is coming to the city — and the city has the building permit to prove it.

The importance of the project to the redevelopment of the city's south end was signified by a press conference at City Hall on Thursday morning to mark the occasion. And with two weeks to go before the election, a chance for the current administration to show the $20 million-plus project isn't a pipe dream.

"The super store will become a destination, it won't be Walmart for North Adams, it will be Super Walmart for the region," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, who happily posed with the bright yellow building permit. "I think what it will do is attract people from the south, it will attract people from the north and from the [west] ...

"That would provide the impetus for other major retailers to want to locate because what they do is build an even bigger destination."

The long-awaited construction is dependent on the conclusion of the bidding process, said Walmart Market Manager Donna Dunn-Greenwood, who had hoped to have a start date in time for Thursday's announcement.

"At this point in time, we do anticipate the first quarter to be our start date of construction," she said. Estimated construction time varies from eight to 14 months, so the store could open sometime in early 2013.

The 160,000 square foot structure is twice the size of the current Walmart and will be larger than that in Pittsfield, and include a grocery, deli, bakery, expanded electronics section, garden center, pharmacy and vision center. (A super center proposed in Bennington, Vt., is still going through the permitting process.)

Building Inspector William Meranti said the plans were reviewed by both he and Fire Director Stephen Meranti.  "They're certainly impressive."

More important, the expansion will create 120 full- and part-time jobs, about half full time, said Dunn-Greenwood, with an average pay of $13.20 hour. The new Walmart will also offer more opportunities for promotion, since most store management begin as hourly employees, she said.

Staffing at the super center will be about 300 people as the 174 workers at the current store will retain their jobs. The company employs more than 11,000 people in the state. It will bring an estimated $200,000 in commercial taxes to the city.

Attracting development back to the south end has been a struggle since anchors Price Chopper and the department store in North Adams Plaza closed years ago. The process began anew when the now-demolished plaza and the city's gravel bank next door attracted interest from commercial developers, now operating as Ceruzzi Holdings. The hope is that new development will spur growth along that corridor and allow downtown to capture some of the traffice coming through.

Attorney Jay Sabin, who's been representing the project, recalled that the first email he'd received on the project was in November 2004. "There were a lot of moving parts," he said, and added to the list of players thanked by those present in getting the project through, including state agencies, engineers, architects, city personnel and Walmart and Ceruzzi.

Ceruzzi is expected to sell the gravel bank to Walmart but retain the old plaza, where installation has begun on a new sewer line to the Adams waste-water plant to serve not only Walmart but other development on the west side of Curran Higway as part of the agreement.

"We're hoping that with the purchase by Walmart and some synergy with that property that we'll be able to attract some other folks, potentially some tenants we talked to in the past, back to that location," said Kenneth G. Cartelli, senior vice president for Ceruzzi.

Lowe's Home Improvement had begun the process for construction at the plaza but the deal fell through for various reasons; the chain also has been pulling back after continued profit losses the last few years.

Walmart has no qualms about doubling its presence in North Adams, said Dunn-Greenwood. "We're very confident in the community and we're very excited to have a supercenter going in there."

There have been complaints by some that Walmart isn't the type of company that's good for the community, in terms of wages and benefits, and would cannibalize existing business. Alcombright, however, said it was an opportunity and told of a young father he'd spoken to that morning who was desperate for work.

"I wish I could have told him that Walmart was opening tomorrow," he said. "It is something we need to hold dear as a community that jobs are coming.

"A job in North Adams is a job; every job in North Adams is a good job."



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Mohawk Trail Woodlands, Forest Service Team Up on Conservation

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

BRPC's Tom Matuszko asks advisory board members to raise their hands as FRCOG's Executive Director Linda Dunlavy waits to speak.
CHARLEMONT, Mass. — A shared stewardship agreement signed Thursday will bring U.S. Forest Service expertise to the state while keeping hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland in state and private hands. 
 
The Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership encompasses 361,941 acres of state and private land across 21 communities in the northwestern corner of the state. About 28 percent of that land is permanently protected. The partnership will enhance conservation and forest research and provide technical support for businesses that depend on the region's natural resources such as tourism and forestry products.
 
"I am from this region, it is a part of the state that is near and dear to my heart," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides at signing held at Berkshire East Mountain Resort. "Something that is a priority to the governor is making sure that this region can continue to have economic security and opportunity for people, but also that connectedness to the landscape and that rootedness in the special places that make up Western Massachusetts."
 
Theoharides said the state is losing about 65 acres of forestland a day to development — housing, parking lots, and commercial establishments — and it's not coming back.  
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