The board also voted to apply for an extension of the Urban Renewal Plan.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Redevelopment Authority on Monday approved applications for two grants that will aid in determining the future of Western Gateway Heritage State Park and surrounding properties.
"The scope of work for this project if awarded will include a review of existing conditions which would include building and infrastructure assessments, development objectives, which would essentially create a new vision redevelopment for several properties owned by the city and the Redevelopment Authority," explained Zachary Feury of the Community Development Office.
Mayor Thomas Bernard in August stated his intention to put the park back out to bid for requests for proposal. The property has been tied up for years, first with plans for a marketplace and housing that collapsed along with the economy nearly a decade ago and then with the proposed Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum. The museum had not responded to an updated offer to extend its option earlier this year.
The technical assistance grant through MassDevelopment would provide support for a number of areas including planning and economic development, market feasibility, analysis, and RFP development and process. It would also aid in addressing site-specific challenges.
A grant for site-readiness would focus on parcels including the former Sons of Italy, a plot to the south and piece that connects to American Legion Drive. The funds would be used to determine the existing conditions and feasibility of redevelopment.
The concept for development would be the construction of a cultural and heritage center, and the long talked about pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks to connect to the downtown.
This would be a joint venture between the city and the town of Adams, Berkshire Scenic Railway, and the North Adams Historical Society, and would include the state's Hoosac Tunnel museum and the Office of Tourism.
Judith Grinnell of the Hoosic River Revival expressed some concern that the river project, which is proposed to start just south of the Sons, did not appear to be addressed.
"I guess I'm a little puzzled that this is proceeding and knowing flooding has been designated as the major vulnerability concern of the city," she said. "I don't quite understand the thinking here."
Feury said the grant would be funding a lot of stakeholder engagement and that the Hoosic River Revival would "certainly be added to that list of stakeholders."
"Clearly the the the state of the flood chutes would be included in the review of existing conditions that would be conducted and would be taken into account as we go forward," he said. "A big part of this is determining the feasibility of the project. This is not construction money. It's not engineering money."
Member Michael Leary stressed to Grinnell that the board would only be voting to approve pursuit of the grant and that a project doesn't exist.
"We're not approving a project. We're not approving a design. We're not approving anything other than just to taking a look at getting grant funding, which may give us a foundation to see what can be done with the property," he said.
Grinnell said the condition of the concrete chutes in that area was poor and that "we need to get moving."
"There's a part of me that says this is very exciting," she said. "It works for the river project as well as for the the city."
Feury was given the go-ahead two submit both grants.
The board also voted for the Office of Community Development to apply to the state for an extension of the Urban Renewal Plan. The plan expires in September 2021.
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