NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The chief architect of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is looking to develop the Windsor Mill into art studios, galleries and live/work spaces.
Simeon Bruner of Cambridge Development Corp., and principal of Bruner/Cott Architects, has offered $465,000 for the historic mill with the pledge to invest a minimum of $400,000 on facade and capital improvements within the next three years.
"Resonating with the attraction of Mass MoCA, the proposal plans a phased transition of the Mill to a space that supports small businesses, artists and art-related activities," Bruner writes in the proposal. "We view this $865,000 in venture capital as just the beginning of our investment in the Windsor Mill and in the history and future of North Adams."
He said the company would work with any current tenants of the property.
"They've done quite a bit of this type of work," Mayor Richard Alcombright said. "We're pretty excited to have him the mix."
Alcombright said Bruner was one of two who submitted proposals for the building, the other being the group that recently purchased the Dowlin Block and Porter & Tower Building. Both had offered somewhat similar plans for use, with the second bid being a bit higher by $35,000. But it was Bruner's portfolio — including his work on Mass MoCA over the decades — that came out on top.
"From my perspective, it was just the amount of experience and the number of builds they have done," the mayor said on the choice of Bruner. "It's the depth and breadth of what they've done over the years."
Bruner's proposal pointed to the redevelopment of the Chickering Piano Factory in Boston into the Piano Craft Guild, which he said was the first mill-to-housing conversion in the country. Cambridge Development and Bruner/Cott renovated the property in 1972 and have since added more amenities.
It's also done nearly a dozen more similar revitalizations, offering a track record on its work that the mayor said swayed him and the committee formed to score the proposals.
"His connectivity to the MoCA campus over 20 years ... It's a great visual of what we can hope for at the Windsor Mill," the mayor said.
The mill was put up for sale along with five other city-owned properties earlier this year. It was valued at $1.1 million in 2015 by an independent appraiser who set its value based in part on its income generation and a land value of nearly $300,000. There are a number of companies situated in the building, along with the School Department's E3 Academy. The most recent tenant is a tiny house manufacturer.
The four-story mill has 157,807 square feet of space and dates in parts to 1829. The former Windsor Print Works manufactured textiles for more than 120 years before closing in 1956. The building was purchased and used for storage by the late Stanley Shapiro, who operated a car dealership adjacent to it for many years. The defunct Economic Development Corp. acquired it in the 1970s for use as a business incubator and the city took it over in the 1980s.
Bruner, whose award-winning firm designed both Building 7 (Sol Le Witt) and the expansive Building 6, wrote in his proposal that the company has a "deep connection with North Adams through our extensive work on all phases of Mass MoCA."
The development company, he said, was designed for the reuse of outdated industrial buildings and that firm has converted "millions of square feet of antiquated industrial buildings" into residential, commercial and institutional needs.
"I am president of the Shoreline Corporation, an arm of the firm that manages only our properties," Burner writes. "We believe that this is the only way to maximize a building's use and maintain it to the high standard we require."
Cambridge Development said it will invest $200,000 in facade and landscaping work within 24 months and another $200,000 on capital improvements focused on interior upgrades and incubator space in 30 months. "Much more" will be invested in the longer term, with the possibility of rental lofts for visitors or tourists.
The sale would make the Windsor Mill the latest in the redevelopment of the city's older industrial buildings. The Greylock Mill is undergoing a $15 million overhaul focused on food, hospitality and residential; the Norad Mill (Excelsior) was recently purchased for development for smaller manufacturing, industrial and office operations.
The Eclipse Mill and Beaver Street Mill have already been developed as residential, art/work spaces.
Cambridge Development has posted a $25,000 down payment, which it would forfeit if it backs out of the deal.
The City Council is expected to take up the matter on Tuesday.
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Drury Graduate to Direct Horror Film in North Adams
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Drury High School graduate is hoping to bring his dream — or, more appropriately, his nightmare — to film life.
The horror film "The Uncredited," written by Nick Burchard, will be filmed in North Adams this spring, pending fundraising and the COVID-19 pandemic. Burchard's Tiny Viking Productions is making the film in conjunction with Sancha Spiller and Kasey Rae of Skylah Productions of New York City.
"I grew up in the area, and I've always appreciated the historical places, in particular the Hoosac Tunnel, Mohawk Theater, and the old mills," Burchard said. "I think North Adams has a very unique setting, with the mountains surrounding the city and of course, all the steeples.
"The Uncredited" follows a young woman who appears in an independent film. While watching it, her friends notice something disturbing in the background of her scene. This leads to rumors and distrust in even the closest group of friends.
"My goal is to make great characters, and even though it's a spooky thriller the characters in it are just friends sitting down to watch a movie together," Burchard said. "They crack jokes, roast each other, and are all collectively trying to have a good time … but that juxtaposed with the realization that one of them might be hiding something is what creates the thriller edge to this. I think it's really fun."
Spiller added that the film does not rely on horror tropes such as jump scares. She said the screenplay is character-driven.
"It showcases our greatest fear of not knowing the people around us as well as we think," she said. "It makes us second guess who we trust and remember that just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have horrifying consequences."