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MoCA Director Joseph Thompson explains the some of the aspects of the plan.
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Center Street would end in a pocket park to encourage pedestrian traffic. Motorists would exit onto Holden Street.

North Adams, Mass MoCA Plan Marshall Street Makeover

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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A conceptual drawing of what Marshall Street could look like with a public park on the lefthand side and a pedestrian bridge linking Marshall to Mass MoCA under the overpass.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the city are pursuing a $6.8 million MassWorks grant that would dramatically change Marshall and Center streets.

The grant, matched with another $6 million in private funds, would create a public space in place of the former Brien Center on Marshall Street and develop greater access between the museum and the downtown.

"That's an ambitious grant as MassWorks goes," MoCA Executive Director Joseph Thompson said. "It's not the most ...  It's a good hefty grant."

In a slide presentation to the City Council on Tuesday night, Thompson and City Planner Mackenzie Greer showed conceptual designs of what the opened-up corner of Marshall and West Main might look like.

"The Leu property is a linchpin," said Thompson. "We decided to get control of it and make it a more hospitable area. We also own the Subway building. We gave it to the Mass MoCA Commission for the purpose of working with city to develop it as a private amenity."

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation Inc. purchased the building at 25 Marshall in June for $325,000 and turned it over to the municipal Mass MoCA Cultural Development Commission for a $1 at the beginning of August.

"I think it has significant potential for the corridor and will assuredly create a new and welcome visibility from MoCA to our downtown and back," said Mayor Richard Alcombright in his communication to the council. "This project holds great promise for the downtown and fits nicely with all that is moving forward with the proposed improvements at Heritage State Park."

Dubbed Phoenix Mill Commons, plans call for some type of public space — park, amphitheatre, greenspace and hardspace — at the Marshall Street location to create visual sight lines between the museum and the city's center to attract the more than 140,000 MoCA visitors each year to wander off the campus.

"My main thing to Joe is, how do we make Main Street visible?" the mayor said.

Part of that will be new wayfinding signage both for motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

The project would also include revamping West Main Street to narrow it, make it more accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians, make the Monitor monument more prominent, and connect it to the museum's south gate and the pedestrian bridge to what will be Greylock Market in Western Gateway Heritage State Park. That would also link into the long-planned Berkshire Bike Path.

Center Street would also have a facelift, with a park at the intersection of Center and Holden; traffic would be slowed and moved through the parking lot at the Juvenile Court and exit onto Holden Street.

A pedestrian bridge over the Hoosic River and under the Veterans Memorial Bridge would more immediately connect the museum's grounds with the new park space. The grant would take into account repairs required on the bridge.

Alcombright said the state Department of Transportation was aware of the problems with the bridge, which is owned by the city, but there was an expectation the state would take care of problematic two expansion joints before the snow flies.

Thompson said a lot of work had gone into the south end of the museum campus, including demolishing some old buildings and constructing the Anselm Kiefer gallery that houses some $60 million worth art right next to the now-locked West Main gates.

"Our intention is to open them. We would very much like in two years or three years from now to open them at least to pedestrian and bicycle passage," said Thompson. "This would be a shorter and much more permeable way, at least for bicycles and pedestrians. ... Making it free for people who want to walk in ... to the really beautiful grounds."

The grant was pulled together within a couple weeks and submitted two weeks ago; city will find out by the end of October if it's been selected.

"They really like to fund projects that are located in urban cores in already developed areas," said Greer. "They like to see mixed development and transit-oriented development.

"The MassWorks program wants to see these projects proposed are very consistent with local and regional plans."

Greer pointed out the proposal looks at areas defined as high priority in the recently approved Vision 2030 master plan for the city as well as the Partnership for North Adams, and aligns with Sustainable Berkshires, the county's master plan.

"This is a very fast-moving grant. ... We are getting RFPs prepared so we can hit the ground running," she said. The design would start this winter and begin construction over the next two summers. Once there's a concrete design, public input would be solicited.

If the city loses out, the project will be done piecemeal as funding sources become available. Alcombright said he had reached out to the city's state representatives and Gov. Deval Patrick about the grant.

Councilors greeted the news with enthusiasm.

"I think this is extremely exciting," said Councilor Kate Merrigan. Councilor Nancy Bullett said she imagined something attractive, like Shelburne Falls' Bridge of Flowers, and like the idea of the opportunity to use the river.

Tags: bike path,   mass moca,   MassWorks grant,   pedestrians,   public parks,   streetscape,   

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North Adams Council Rejects Housing Authority Candidate

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Several Housing Authority tenants spoke in opposition to a board member's reappointment. The council did not vote to approve. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The chair of the North Adams Housing Authority is out after a number of residents objected to his reappointment. 
The City Council rejected the reappointment of Colin Todd in a 7-1 vote, with only Councilor Peter Oleskiewicz voting in favor. Councilor Ashley Shade was absent. 
"It's in our best interest he is not re-elected," said Joanne Dunn of 45 Spring St., speaking during hearing of visitors at the beginning of the council meeting. "There are a lot of issues in the two buildings of the North Adams Housing has and in my neighborhood but if we don't revamp the board, we're not gonna get anywhere."
Councilor Jennifer Barbeau, liaison to the authority, described the authority's board as "hostile" both to herself and to residents who tried to attend meetings. 
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