NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Several projects will be happening this summer in the city, including Phase 2 of the improvements planned for Noel Field Athletic Complex.
"We have gone out to bid and we have hired the Berkshire Design Group for the design," Special Projects Coordinator Michael Nuvallie told the Community & Economic Development Advisory Board on Monday. "It's not in the early stages, it's probably at the 50 percent for design."
The final design should be ready shortly to be sent to the Parks Commission for a final blessing and then put to bid in June. The improvements include the installation of a spray pad, a new double basketball court, bocce and pickle ball courts, and reconfigured walking track, along with other amenities.
The entire project is estimated at $778,000; $400,000 comes from a state Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities with the balance matched from the city's fiscal 2018 Community Development Block Grant funding.
Nuvallie, who shepherded the project through the Phase 1 skate park addition, said the hope is to have the entire project wrapped up by June 1, 2019.
In response to questions, Nuvallie said it was unclear if the work could be done around league play and that the Parks Commission might have a better handle on that.
"Most leagues are done by the second week in August ... There will still be enough time between August and into September [for construction]," he said. However, the contractor may want to work on everything at once because of the heavy equipment that would used.
Community Development Director Larysa Bernstein said she would speak to the designers to see if it would be possible to stage construction. Nuvallie said they also hoped to maintain the current lights and just shift the courts slightly.
"The aim is, and it would be wonderful to reach it, is to have the whole thing done by next June," said advisory board member Steve Green. "That would be fabulous."
The city's first Complete Streets grant project will also get under way with sidewalk and bike lane improvements planned for Beaver Street (Route 8). Bids are will be due soon.
North Adams was awarded $400,000 through the state Department of Transportation last fall to replace the existing sidewalks with Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant structures and line for bicycle lanes between Union Street and the city line at Clarksburg.
The Mary Spitzer Senior Center will also begin its renovations through Community Development Block Grant funding. Some $224,000 will go toward infrastructure improvements; future grant funding is planned for interior upgrades and programming. That project has been recently awarded to a Pittsfield firm and the project is expected to start in the next few weeks.
Work on the Berkshire Family YMCA roof should be closed out in the next few weeks. The city put $75,000 in CDBG funds toward the project with the balance being picked up by the YMCA. The city owns the building.
The Armory will go through what is expected to the final phase in its years-long restoration with repairs to the stairs and parapet. Those areas had been restored several years ago but the workmanship was poor and has to be redone. Some $254,250 from the FY2017 grant is being used.
Other work includes the ongoing local historical survey, being done with a combination of grants.
Nuvallie said the FY2016 CDBG will be closed out and that the FY2017 grant is about halfway through. The fiscal 2018 grant application — with funds targeted to the Brayton Hill playground, an outdoor theater and the Phase 2 project at Noel Field — has been submitted and the city is expected to be awarded the mini entitlement grant of $825,000 around July 1.
The Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum won $250,000 in seed money for predevelopment the year before but its $5.4 million request for site preparation was rejected. Child Care of the Berkshires' application for $718,000 for sewer and parking lot upgrades was also turned down.
"It's a highly competitive grant," Nuvallie said. "You're lucky to get one project in a community."
He said the EMRCAM was probably rejected because it did not have control of the site and a shovel-ready project and Child Care because its project would not create significant jobs. Child Care is expected to try again but he did not know about the museum.
North Adams also received a 2018 Massachusetts Downtown Initiative award of $15,000 to bring in a consultant to work with all the Eagle Street businesses on retail visioning on June 11. Six businesses will be selected for one-on-ones with the consultant and provided with $500 each to implement her recommendations.
Bernstein said this project is outside the NAMAZing Eagle Street Initiative but that "we want to keep it as close as possible to their work." There will also be a "block shine" meeting for the nonprofit organizations and galleries on Eagle to address their different needs and incorporate them into the project.
"We're going to try to do as much as we can with this small grant," she said.
Perhaps the biggest project will updating the city's zoning and ordinances through the use of a District Local Technical Assistance grant. Bernstein said the city is also applyng for a grant through the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to do the complete update through the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
If only the DLTA grant is available, she will be working with BRPC's Chris Gruba to at least clean them up and put them online.
"With all the projects going on it's a pretty exciting time," Green said. "Is that adding pressure to your office?"
Bernstein said it was to the extent of trying to get grants and help businesses.
"We're trying to make the [city] website to be more business-friendly to help businesses looking to locate in the area to give them some resources," she said. "We want to help with the development to make the process as easy as possible and I think updating our zoning will also help with making the process easier."
Board member Brian Miksic said he's run into confusion in the zoning with the business he runs renovating buildings.
"There's some antiquated language — like you can have a sanitarium here but not a dance hall," he said. "We want to build today to fit into this because these things haven't been rewritten since 1954. ...
"Look at our whole master plan, Complete Streets, we want people walking and all these things we want ... are we looking at it holistically."
Bernstein said parking guidelines are also a "little bit outdated" and don't fit business practices these days.
"We want to make the downtown better," she said. "I pulled a lot of blurbs out from the master plan to show what the vision was."
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to email@example.com.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Jack's Hot Dog Contest Crowns Local Champ, Raises Charity Funds
By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
Professional eater Kevin Strahle goofs around with Mayor Thomas Bernard and Jack's Hot Dog Stand owner Jeffrey Levanos.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Kevin Strahle traveled all the way from his home in New Jersey to compete in the Jack's Hot Dog Stand eating contest on Eagle Street on a sweltering Saturday.
But because of some late intestinal distress, he did not take the title home with him.
Strahle, better known as "L.A. Beast," is a professional eater with over 2.3 million subscribers on YouTube. He holds several distinctive records in the world of professional eating, including: eating five light bulbs in 10 minutes, the entire menu of burgers from Burger King while wearing a shock collar, and ingesting 21 dimes covered in olive oil.
One of Strahle's better known feats is eating an entire pineapple. Not just the entirety of the traditionally edible parts but the whole fruit.
Kevin Strahle traveled all the way from his home in New Jersey to compete in the Jack's Hot Dog Stand eating contest on Eagle Street on a sweltering Saturday.
But because of some late intestinal distress, he did not take the title home with him. click for more
This art installation, although originally intended for the Ashuwillticook Trail, was placed at the Natural Bridge State Park here in North Adams where it has remained for the past 15 years.
click for more
The Berkshire Business Interns, winnowed from more than 500 applications this past spring, worked in 20 different organizations, businesses and municipalities throughout the county this summer. About two-thirds hail from the Berkshires.
click for more