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The windows of the former Quinn building on Union and Canal streets are seen for the first time in 50 years.
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The building is being turned into a music venue, apartments and offices.

North Adams ZBA Approval Paves Way for Quinn Building Restoration

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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An elevation of what the front of the HiLo will look like when completed.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Plans for the redevelopment of the former Quinn's Paint & Wallpaper building are moving forward after the Zoning Board of Appeals signed off on reviving the structure's past use. 
 
Most recently the Crystal Hard Hat Saloon and then two short-lived ventures as an antiques shop and "dog museum," the 1886 building is being revived as a music venue, apartments and offices. 
 
Very Good Properties LLC, which purchased the building last year, was approved for its music venue and office plans by the Planning Board last month; a special permit was needed from the ZBA to "return to use" for residential because the building is now non-conforming in an industrial zone. 
 
"Originally, this building has had residences on the second and third floor up through probably the early '60s when the building was covered," Brian Miksic, a principal of Very Good Properties, told the ZBA on Monday. Over the past several weeks, the asbestos siding has been removed revealing the original siding and windows. "It was literally just covering up all the windows,covering everything. That's when they stopped using those second and third floors."
 
Miksic said the initial plan is to renovate the second-floor apartments as rooms for the bands being booked for the first floor bar and performance center. The third-floor apartments would be completed at later date for leasing. 
 
"With the changing of the zoning ordinances a couple years ago, thanks to Councilor [Wayne] Wilkinson, we now have the ability to be able to return to a previous use, which would be non-conforming," he said. 
 
Wilkinson, a former member of the Planning Board who is now a city councilor, had spearheaded a zoning change largely to deal with zoning orphans -- mainly vacant commercial properties in residential zones. These buildings were no longer grandfathered after two years but also were not conducive to be turned into residences.
 
Miksic's request was the reverse: a former residential property in an industrial zone. The ordinance no longer has a time limit, which did cause some members of the ZBA pause. 
 
What if someone wanted to turn Domino's back into a gas station? asked board member Peter Milanesi. "I would be surprised that they didn't set some kind of a time with it. Throughout history?"
 
Building Inspector William Meranti said the ordinance was written to give value to properties that had no use as residential. 
 
"However, the way this ordinance was written, it doesn't stop us from using it in the reverse, either, in my opinion," he said. "Again, that's up to the board. But in my opinion, it's written in a manner that is open to interpretation."
 
That was enough for the board to approve the restoration of the use, paving the way for residential, commercial and performance space in the three structures that make up the complex at 55 Union St. 
 
Miksic had explained last month at the Planning Board that the building owned by the Quinns had been a tavern from 1903 until Prohibition, when the family switched to selling paint and wallpaper. The Chilson family, descendants of the Quinns, had helped in uncovering the history of the building and how it used to look. 
 
The music venue will be called Hi-Lo, after Miksic's eye caught the sharp red logo of a paint line no longer in production.
 
"I've been searching for a name and my partners have been searching for a name for this place," he said. "It was important to me that it had something to do with the history of the city or the history of the building ... That is when I noticed in these photos this little logo." 
 
The venue will take up the largest portion of the first floor with a main stage, portable stage and bar. It will host larger bands and also individual performers along with live karaoke. 
 
The middle structure will have contain the bathrooms and the second floor will be removed to increase the ceiling height. The "barn" structure will contain a workshop, offices for Very Good Property and a conference room.
 
The project will be done over phases and will have to return to the boards again for approvals. 
 
The structure is already has a complete sprinkler system and is rated for 250 people. Miksic said agreements have been made for parking in the NAPA parking lot across the street and the Willow Dell parking lot. More than 30 parking spots are available along Union Street and the Center Street Parking lot is about a 4-minute walk away. 
 
Miksic estimated there are up to a 150 parking spots in a few minutes walk. Operations will be under Will Jamross, Jennifer Crowell and Joad Bowman of Thistle & Mirth in Pittsfield.
 
He sees the restoration of the building as a positive development in what is the eastern entrance to the city, along with what David Carver had done across the street with the old Shapiro Chevrolet building. 
 
"We expect to open in September, if we stay on schedule, and so far we're on schedule," he told the ZBA. 

Tags: bars, taverns,   concerts,   redevelopment,   

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Letter: Standouts to Support Public Higher Education

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

During this time in which many of our day to day activities have been affected by Covid-19, one thing has not changed: the value of our public higher education institutions. Here in Berkshire County, MCLA and Berkshire Community College continue to serve our students, many of them local residents and the majority residents of this Commonwealth. While the modalities we are using to teach, counsel, advise, and provide all types services have widened to include more online and hybrid as well as in person delivery when it can be safely done, BCC and MCLA are open to our students. We remain the most affordable and accessible institutions in the county. Together with our colleagues at the University of Massachusetts campuses, we continue to educate our citizens.

It is for these reasons that we wish to express our opinion that public higher education campuses deserve level funding at the very least. Our students deserve and should have access to the range of programs, courses, and support services of all kinds; during this pandemic, students have more needs to be met, not fewer. Public higher education has suffered through many years of underfunding. Although the work done at public institutions of higher education is often praised, such lip service doesn’t pay the salaries and other fixed costs on our campuses. Praise has never funded a scholarship or kept tuition and fees from the increases necessary when state aid is insufficient. If ever there was a time to turn praise into line items of the budget, this is that time.

Our public colleges and universities provide the workers that are needed in our communities. From nurses to teachers, from scientists to computer specialists, from professors to hospitality workers, from writers to public servants of all kinds, how many of us were educated at least in part at our public colleges? Workforce development and adult basic education also takes place on our campuses. We provide those who cannot or choose not to leave the area with quality education that is relatively affordable. Those employed by the colleges are able to invest in the community as well, buying homes, raising families, and supporting local businesses.

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