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Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art was approved for work on the Marshall Street park to offset planned work on the campus and on River Street within the 200-foot zone of the river.

North Adams Conservation Commission OKs Mass MoCA Plans

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The plans for what is now being called Puryear Park on Marshall Street.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The torn-up parking lot on Marshall Street is being transformed into a green space designed to lure visitors from Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to downtown North Adams. 
 
The centerpiece is "Big Bling," the Martin Puryear's 40-foot-tall sculpture installed at the corner of Marshall and Main streets last fall. 
 
The Conservation Commission has gotten the first look at the completed Puryear Park plans — first announced last year — because of a request by Mass MoCA to use the park as an offset for work on the museum campus being done in the 200-foot buffer zone of the Hoosic River. 
 
The paving has already been removed and will be replaced with sinuous paths, benches, bike rack, zone-appropriate greenery and lighting. 
 
The museum had initially asked for a request for determination of applicability in March on whether work around the empty water tank on campus — including a concrete pad and demolition of a structure — fell within the Wetlands Protection Act. The commission debated how the wetlands act would apply regarding the flood chutes and what a determinaton would mean regarding "banking" soil to offset another area. Members also took the museum to some task about failing to file for work being done in the park, which is still in the riverfront buffer zone even if separated by a building. 
 
Museum officials apologized at the time, saying they had not been aware the commission should be involved. In the end, they withdrew the application without prejudice at the commission's suggestion so the project could be resubmitted under the notice of intent process, which includes storm water management. 
 
Brad Dilger, project manager at Mass MoCA, returned Thursday with a NOI through the Department of Environmental Protection detailing the amount of square footage it wanted credit for at the park to offset the other planned work that includes development for the bike path and bridge through the museum campus. 
 
Dilger said the hope was to associate the work at the water tank with Puryear Park.
 
"That is going to be a park that transforms an existing parking lot and partial building into a green spaces type of sculpture park," he said during the commission meeting held on the Zoom platform. "And part of the project is we're hoping to, and I think this might be one of the comments from the DEP, is to bank some of the converted space for future projects.  
 
"We are talking about a bridge project on the north side of the property that we would want to use that banked reconditioned area for."
 
The bridge across the flood chutes along River Street has been planned for some time and preparations for it were part of the $65 million Building 6 project. The bike path envisioned to run from Williamstown to North Adams, and then south to meet up with the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, has run into delays because of routing issues.
 
"We would like to get started as soon as possible on both projects [park and water tank]," said Dilger. "We are doing some preliminary work ... there is an older structure, near the water tank that has to come down so we've done some
abatement in there to get the building ready for demolition ... 
 
"And there's been some work done on Main and Marshall street to prepare that space for plantings. As soon as we get approval to do so."
 
Commissioner Andrew Kawczak thanked the museum for so quickly turning the documents into a notice of intent and having the engineering firm document the 200-foot riverfront area.
 
"When I compare that to the quote 'banking' of the Marshall Street site of it makes sense," he said. "I'm glad they're linked. ...
 
"I think I understand the magnitude of the project, the mathematics will work out with Mark Stinson [environmental analyst at MassDEP] later on as to what categories of banking issues that may develop at the end of this discussion but certainly,  appreciate the notice of intent as documented."
 
The water tank project, being used for an art installation, would mean 400 square feet of new concrete that the museum intended to offset with 5,400 square feet of sod and plantings on Marshall Street. That should leave excess square-footage the museum wants to use toward future work for the bridge and bike path on River Street. 
 
Dilger said the bridge will be the last step to finish the proposed bike path. 
 
"So I know we're going to be in the same WPA area, and we'll be turning some of the grass, and do what would be a walkway to approach ... we're just anticipating that's future need," he said. "We have this project with a park going on right now. We have changed a lot of impervious [ground] to pervious and hoping we can use some of that for the future bike project."
 
Stinson asked for more clarity on whether the banking of soil was for mitigation or restoration.
 
"I mean the main thing for me is what is being banked, what is improvement versus mitigation," Stinson said, adding it can't be both. "If they're doing additional work now, and they want to bank that extra for a future benefit, it just needs to be clear: is it improvement, is it restoration or is it mitigation, because each one of those is different."
 
Restoration would be restoring an area to a natural ecology; taking a degraded area and putting in a lawn would be mitigation. The commission voted to approve the project as mitigation, meaning the museum could bank double square footage, or two times 5,457 square feet.
 
The museum was also given a five-year window to use the bank to take into account the hold ups in the bike path and probable economic delays because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
 
In other business, the commission approved a three-year extension on a permit for orders of conditions for Chris Grimley for property located on Bradley Street. The extension was for the original plans; Grimley would have to come back before the commission for any of the changes he had in mind. 

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Mass MoCA Readies for Summer Restaurant, Season

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

A conceptual image of the restaurant.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Georgian restaurant out of New York City is planning a pop-up eatery at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art this summer.
 
The Mass MoCA Commission on Wednesday approved the seasonal restaurant to occupy the former Gramercy space, specifically the courtyard near the museum entrance. The restaurant would operate from Memorial Day until some time September.
 
"The operators for this pop-up restaurant are coming to us from Manhattan, where they run two restaurants with Georgian — as in, over-in-Europe Georgian — style food, and they recently, last year pre-COVID, hosted a dinner event for us so we got to know them and their delicious food," said Tracy Moore, the museum's interim director. "They would operate as many days as they could in the beginning as they staff up and ultimately gearing towards full lunch and dinner operations that comport with Mass MoCA hours."
 
Tamara Chubinidze, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, opened Chama Mama in New York City in 2019 and has had plans to expand. The restaurant is appearing before 
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