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Zachery Feury of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission leads a public forum Thursday evening at First Baptist Church to outline the feasibility study on potential outdoor theaters.
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River Grove Park also scored lower because it is already a developed park.
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The Leu Lot is owned by Mass MoCA and is surrounded by a busy intersection.
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The parking lot parcel accounts for about 530 parking spaces that would be turned into green space.

North Adams Residents Presented With Five Possible Theater Parks

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The lower portion of Colegrove Park scored lower because it isn't very accessible.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city will look at five possible outdoor theater and park locations in the downtown including the parking lot off Main Street.
 
Zachery Feury of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission led a public forum Thursday evening at First Baptist Church to outline a feasibility study that highlighted five possible parks the city could consider developing. 
 
"This looks at identifying potential locations for an outdoor theater park," he said. "It is a public green space that comes with a stage. It is a place for performances and other types of activities."
 
This feasibility study was conducted by the city's Office of Community Development and BRPC. The forum was scheduled to present the findings and to gather public opinion, which will inform the next phase of the study. 
 
This study is funded through the city’s Community Development Block Grant program and the park concept is in line with the Vision 2030 Plan.
 
Feury said the study is not a design study or financial study and only identifies potential sites in a 60-acre downtown area. Both city-owned land and privately owned land was included in the five selected locations; however, no discussions with property owners have taken place. 
 
The five parcels chosen were a portion of the parking lot on the south side of Main Street, the so-called "Leu Lot" on Marshall Street, the American Legion, the River Grove Park off Houghton and River Streets, and Colgrove Park.
 
Feury went over the parameters used to select and rate the chosen parcels and said a survey was conducted to inform their selection and metrics.
 
He said a majority of people wanted a place for performances. Activities such as movies and farmers market came in slightly lower. 
 
At the bottom was sports fields and courts.
 
"I think the reason for this is a number of parks in the city already have these sort of things, so why have more of the same," Feury said.
 
As for size, 50 percent of survey takers wanted to see a park roughly 1.3 acres in size -- about the size of a football field. Thirty-one percent wanted to see a 2-acre park and 19 percent wanted to see a park about half an acre.
 
The survey also accounted for amenities. Top scorers were a stage, trash cans and permanent bathrooms.
 
The lowest-rated amenities were sports courts and boulders.
 
Feury said the chosen parcels were run through a 15-point matrix and were rated on centrality, access, new green space, ownership, vehicle, bike and pedestrian access, size, and ambient noise, among other categories.  
 
"It gives people a gathering space and an enjoyable ... place," he said. "A place where people want to go and spend time. It will help bring people into the downtown, into the commercial district and as they spend more time they will spend more money."
 
Parcels were scored out of 45.
 
The highest scorer was the "Northern Movieplex Parking Lot" off the south side of Main Street, which scored a 37. 
 

This parking lot off Main Street scored the highest but it isn't owned by the city.
"It has very low utilization and it is centrally located on the south side of Main Street," he said. "It is easily accessible and is near the bus station."
 
The outlined section was a 2.03-acre parcel that stretched from Main Street to approximately where Summer Street enters the parking lot. 
 
The selected parcel is bordered by the L-shaped mall and All Saints Episcopal Church.
 
Feury said it accounts for 530 parking spaces but this entire parcel would not be needed. He said they would most likely be looking at half of this parcel. 
 
He added that it would involve a lot of reclamation work but this would make an asphalted area green again, which aligns with the goals of the 2030 master plan.
 
This parking lot is not owned by the city and Feury noted that if this is the chosen parcel, they are still a ways off from broaching acquisition with the owner.
 
"A lot has to happen before we get to the park," he said. "We are very early here and very conceptual."
 
The American Legion plot came in with the next highest score of 28.
 
Feury said the 1.07-acre lot has good accessibility and is close to Western Gateway Heritage State Park and the Holiday Inn. He said the site is not very centralized and would need a lot of site prep with a building sitting on the parcel. 
 
Also, the railroad poses a problem. Trains often idle near the Legion post home would not be conducive to performances. Also, there are safety concerns.  
 
River Grove Park came in with a score of 26 and Feury said the city-owned parcel off Houghton Street is already a developed park. The entire parcel is 2.28 acres and is close to the Porches Inn, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the UNO community center.
 
Feury said the parcel received lower scores because it is in a thickly settled neighborhood and not very centralized. Also, it is already a green space and would not "green up" areas in the downtown affected by urban renewal.
 
The Leu Lot that sits along Marshall Street is a .64-acre parcel that is paved and owned by Mass MoCA. He said it would help connect Mass MoCA to Main Street.
 
Feury said one issue is that the park would be difficult to access because it is surrounded by a busy intersection. He added that with heavy traffic flow, noise would also be an issue.
 
The final parcel was Colegrove Park, which is a city-owned .93 acre parcel near the elementary school. He said this parcel scored a 24 with low proximity and access scores. 
 
"To get to Colgrove Park from Church Street or from Main Street you have to cross some fairly busy somewhat confusing intersections," he said. 
 
He added that there is low vehicle access. He said there is also a sizable hill to maneuver and some of the attendees felt that the school often uses the park and it may be contrary to limit their use.
 

The American Legion lot was the second-highest ranked location.
The dozen or so who attended the meeting had mostly positive feedback and agreed that the "Northern Movieplex Parking Lot" parcel may be the best option.
 
City Councilor Keith Bona noted that none of the options were perfect. 
 
"I don't know if there is one that shouts 'yes' and there are definitely a lot of cons to all of them," he said. "The spaces downtown are pretty limited, but it is what you got to work with." 
 
Councillor Benjamin Lamb agreed and noted that more than 80 percent of the downtown is asphalt.
 
Bona did ask that BRPC consider the parking lot behind Big Y that Mass MoCA acquired for overflow parking.
 
Feury said they could run it through the matrix but it was noted that the area was out of the way and often used. It was felt that Mass MoCA would be unwilling to part with it.
 
He reiterated that they are still very early in this process and said now the city has to explore these different options before approaching property owners.
 
He added that even though some of the parcels scored lower it does not mean they are not viable. 

Tags: feasibility study,   public parks,   

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Be Creative When Withdrawing from Retirement Accounts

Submitted by Edward Jones

Like many people, you may spend decades putting money into your IRA and your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan. But eventually you will want to take this money out – if you must start withdrawing some of it. How can you make the best use of these funds?

To begin with, here's some background: When you turn 70 1/2, you need to start withdrawals – called required minimum distributions, or RMDs – from your traditional IRA and your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 457(b) or 403(b). (A Roth IRA is not subject to these rules; you can essentially keep your account intact for as long as you like.) You can take more than the RMD, but if you don't take at least the minimum (which is based on your account balance and your life expectancy), you will generally be taxed at 50% of the amount you should have taken – so don't forget these withdrawals.

Here, then, is the question: What should you do with the RMDs? If you need the entire amount to help support your lifestyle, there's no issue – you take the money and use it. But what if you don't need it all? Keeping in mind that the withdrawals are generally fully taxable at your personal income tax rate, are there some particularly smart ways in which you can use the money to help your family or, possibly, a charitable organization?

Here are a few suggestions:

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