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The empty Price Chopper may be a hub of activity next year. The Williamstown Theatre Festival is planning to buy the building and move its set construction there.
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Williamstown Theatre Festival Buying Price Chopper Building

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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David Carver of Scarafoni Associates speaks to the Planning Board on Monday about the space being let to Community Legal Aid. At left are WTF Trustee Katie Schmidt, property manager David Moresi and attorney Donald Dubendorf.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The vacant Price Chopper building on State Road was approved Monday as the new construction home for the Williamstown Theatre Festival. 
 
Attorney Donald Dubendorf, representing the theater festival, told the Planning Board that property "now will be hopefully a site for set construction and, in the future, perhaps rehearsal space as well."
 
The 60-year-old building had been occupied by Central Markets and its successor Price Chopper until the latter closed in 2016. The property has been for sale but has not evoked enough interest from a buyer despite the neighborhood's hopes a small grocer might be interested. It has been managed by Moresi & Associates. 
 
The Williamstown Theatre Festival is planning to purchase the entire property from the Golub Corp., which owns the plaza as North Adams Realties Corp. The building also has a restaurant, Oriental Buffet, and a Rent-A-Center.
 
"The goal is in the future to use all of that space if that becomes possible not just the currently unoccupied space formerly occupied by the grocery store, but also the other two spaces," said Dubendorf, adding that the festival would honor the current leases held by the two tenants. 
 
The purchase would not include the former Friendly's, being eyed by a marijuana retailer, or the former site of the replica Fort Massachusetts, which was donated to the city as a park by the Golub family. 
 
Dubendorf said no exterior changes were planned and that the parking would be more than sufficient for the activities planned with the building. Charles LaBatt of Guntlow & Associates presented schematics. 
 
According to the application, the former grocery would be used for scene construction with a paint shop, carpentry shop and welding shop with the tenant spaces to be used for rehearsals when they become available. The number of deliveries and activity is not expected to exceed that during the time the supermarket was open.
 
It's expected to be used mainly between May and September and will be manned by 50 to 70 people during peak construction time, which would be June through August when the festival is running. 
 
The WTF was asking for unrestricted hours because of the nature of the work. Planners asked about noises and disruption because the property does back onto a dense neighborhood. 
 
"Let me first say the theater festival will be a good neighbor," Dubendorf said. "We have engaged Hill Engineering to work with us on those issues. So if we've got excessive noises, we'll look to control them within the building. We'll meet or exceed your requirements."
 
The festival does not plan to occupy the building until May 2021.
 
"I know you've got folks have moved around a little bit. I'm glad you've finally found a permanent home that can last for a few years," said Planner Kyle Hanlon.
 
Planner Lisa Blackmer asked if the property would become nonprofit. 
 
"That's a conversation that the theater festival board will will engage in as soon as we can get control of the property with the mayor," Dubendorf said. "The issue has been broached and we'll talk to the mayor about that at some length."
 
Planner Lynette Bond said it was an exciting project but also sad if the restaurant were to close because there aren't many restaurants in the West End.
 
In other business, the board approved: 
 
In Motion Dance Academy operated by Jennifer Howard to open in the Holiday Inn. The dance studio opened last year on Ashland Street and offers classes in ballet, jazz, tap, modern and hoip hop for all levels.
 
• Community Legal Aid to open at 33 Main St. in the Berkshire Plaza. The Worcester-based office had been in the Empire Building. Its hours will be 8 to 5 on weekdays.
 
• Shear Madness Salon, operated by Kim Oakes, was approved to move next door to 81 Main St., where the salon had first opened in 2008. A couple years later, she had relocated to the much larger space at 77 Main St., the former Newberry's. Oakes said she wanted to reduce the size and rent by returning to the smaller space. Her hours will be 11 to 8 Tuesdays and Thursdays; 9 to 5 Wednesdays and Fridays; and 9 to 3 on Saturday.
 
• Samnang Poeuk was approved for an automoble electronics and accessories busines, Automan Sam, at 303 State St. Poeuk said his business would include selling and installing electronics such as security, remote starters, power windows and locks, and heated seats. He will also offer diagnosis and repair, tinting, hydro imaging and vehicle lettering. 
 
The building, which has two bays, will have some interior and exterior improvements and new signage. The property has 12 spaces and the board but a condition that no more than six vehicles could be parked overnight. Poeuk said he did not think that would be an issue. 
 
• TD Bank on Main Street was approved for new signage. The format and size will not change the but color will go to a bright green from the current brownish with a green stripe. 
 
Editor's note: Shear Madness is moving next door on MAIN STREET. The original location was in error. 

Tags: Planning Board,   Williamstown Theatre Festival,   

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Governor Raises Possibility of Testing, Field Hospital in Western Mass

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Conversations are under way on the possibility of setting up a testing facility in Western Massachusetts for public safety personnel and for an expansion of bed capacity.
 
Standing outside the new drive-through testing site at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker stressed the need for more testing and tracing capacity for the novel coronavirus.
 
"Testing capacity in the commonwealth is a major part of our multipronged approach, pushing back against the spread of the virus," he said. "Testing ... helps us determine, not only who's infected but where particularly around the commonwealth, we may have hot spots that we need to focus on."
 
The governor on Friday announced a collaboration with Partners in Health to expand contract tracing throughout the state to pinpoint hot spots, advise those who may have been infected and support people in isolation. 
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