NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Local developer and artist Eric Rudd is making plans for the future of the Beaver Mill by transforming part of it into a bed and breakfast.
The Planning Board on Monday approved the change of use for the historic mill and also gave the OK for Rudd to operate an electric bicycle rental business as well.
Rudd said he and his wife, Barbara, are looking long term for how for the massive structure, one of the oldest mills in the city, can continue to function. It's 130,000 square feet has been a home to them and a studio and exhibit space for Rudd's work, as well as a mixed use commercial space and host for artist residencies.
"When we moved here full time and fixed up the mill was 30 years ago, everything we did has worked out quite well but the next 30 years is well beyond our lifespan," he said. "The long-term view, when Barbara and I are deceased, is that our loft, which is 8,000 square feet, would have up to six bedrooms, 6 1/2 bathrooms. And we wanted the B&B to preserve the loft and make use of various venues within the Beaver Mill."
Rudd said he wanted approval from the city before making any investments in upgrades. The loft is quite comfortable but it does need "to be decorated and refreshed," he said.
The Rudds are also looking to upgrade the space on the second floor that has been used on and off for artist residencies. Hill Engineers has been contracted to develop plans for installing private bathrooms in the rooms.
"This part of the greater overall picture of the Beaver Mill, trying to maintain and make use of artist residencies, artist studios and my work in my studio is a big chunk of the mill," he said.
The application was made by Cire Corp. of Massachusetts (Rudd's business arm) operating as Beaver Mill Loft B&B and in partnership with the nonprofit Barbara and Eric Rudd Art Foundation, which also runs the Berkshire Art Museum.
Rudd said the foundation board also includes his two sons, an accountant and an attorney.
"I've been doing a lot of documentation about what's going to happen and we have set up in that direction," he said, noting he wrote a book on art studio development. "Obviously in today's age of coronavirus, you start thinking about the end game. And it could happen sooner than you expect. So, this is part of the game plan."
The transformation won't happen overnight but rather over some time. Rudd said he's setting up the infrastructure now because if he waits 10 years, it won't happen.
As for the bicycle rental, he said a study by the Berkshire Business Bureau found most people come here for the outdoors.
"But the problem as you get older those hills are very high, and they feel difficult to climb," Rudd said. "The sea change in the industry has been the invention and common use of electric assist bicycles."
He said he's been talking about the idea with a friend who operates a similar rental business in Aspen, Colo., and thinks the mill is the perfect spot with its proximity to Natural Bridge State Park and the less-traveled lanes to the north.
The bicycles cost about $3,000 a piece, will only be for adults and will require a helmet and driver's license. There's plenty of parking and mill space, as well as area for people to practice riding the vehicles. The bikes would be returned to the mill, not left in other locations.
"I think it's a perfect business for North Adams," Rudd said. "I think it'll stimulate a lot of other things, quite frankly. ...
"I've been talking about it for years and years, and I just think it's a win win."
He anticipates starting this year with a handful of bicycles and add on next year after when pandemic should be phasing out.
"So I had two businesses that I want to do. This season is obviously not going to happen," he said. "This is a perfect season to No. 1 be optimistic about the future and No. 2, to do the nuts and bolts and get things in order and start having things happen next year."
In other business:
• The board approved a change in hours for the Break Room restaurant in Greylock Works on State Road to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
• Heard a presentation from Nate Karns of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on short-term rentals.
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In Cautious Song, Early Birds Proclaim Vernal Awakening
By Tor HanseniBerkshires columnist
Oh what a joy to see goldfinches in small feeding flocks dining on sunflower seeds provided in the porch feeders. It is time with a steel bristle brush to clear out last year's thistles and scrape away any rust clogging the tiny holes suited so well for their small bills.
What a treat to watch showy yellow and black males, their mottled feathers shifting to peak molt. Female goldfinches are overall more drab in softer hues of field grey-green but on the nest will be less obvious in camouflage. For several weeks ahead they wait until late spring to commence nest-building.
Their fleecy basket is woven securely in poplar trees with tight fibers to adjust for wind. Whether foraging on elm blossoms in the tall neighboring elm tree, or gleefully riding their parabolic flight path, their zesty songs are music to our ears.
As the prolonged cool of early spring on Mount Greylock delays the purple trillium bloom, guess who is a dapper chatterbox along a service road leading to solar grid installation? With new fallen snow still evident in the higher elevations in late April, these warblers are the first to greet me, soon to be followed by the full diversity of the 23 species, family Parulidae.
Calling a deliberate zizzizizzi-from sylvan edges of a wide clearing, a fleet burst of yellow and field marks of rufous in the head cap and bold red streaking on throat, breast, and belly is a male palm warbler (Dendroica palmarum). Watch for their constant tail wag. Eagerly they to flit and forage about mossy trunks and budding ground story, hopping and darting through fern and old decaying logs. These aerial acrobats cut deft sorties into the air to snag tiny flying insects stirring at last from winter's seclusion.
Wayne Gelinas and Lea King have been forced to shutter their Mohawk Trail eatery, at least for the time being. But they have found a way to continue business online while providing free meals to those in need.
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