NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday spent little time debating the merits of a $10,000 bid for the problematic Notre Dame complex before voting unanimously to accept it.
The administration had recommended the bid by Moresi Commercial Development LLC to transform the three-story school building into apartments and save the church for a Phase 2 project, which may also likely be housing.
The proposal needed the council's approval because Moresi's bid of $10,000 fell well below the assessed values for the church and school properties of more than $1 million.
"In September, we received two proposals and responses, as has been the practice I asked a committee of staff to be the first to look at those, to review them, to make a recommendation, and then to forward that to me," said Mayor Thomas Bernard. "I'm very pleased to bring this one forward."
The mayor said Moresi was "on the cusp" of purchasing Johnson School from the city to turn into housing but that the transaction was taking longer than anticipated because the current tenant was having some difficulty getting into its new space. The company was able to gain some access to the building to begin work prior to the closing.
"We have two things going for us — one, is someone with a track record and then, someone with a good collaborative relationship with the city," he said.
Councilor Wayne Wilkinson asked if Moresi would be taxed on the current assessment. The mayor said that was his take unless the properties were reassessed prior to closing.
"I am more than happy to support this order," said Councilor Jason LaForest. "It's the order I would have liked to have voted on two years ago when we first accepted projects for the Notre Dame RFP. So I want to commend Mr. Moresi for sticking with the city and reissuing an RFP on this project, and I'm very happy to see this move forward."
David Moresi had proffered a similar proposal with a bid for $1 two years ago; the second bidder, Eric Rudd, had as well with his plan to expand the Berkshire Art Museum. The administration had gone with a more ambitious proposal to develop a $18.5 million hotel and a purchase price of $253,000, but the plan fell through.
"He's got a track record, a proven track record, of successful ventures, both in housing and commercial. So I think that's important," said Councilor Lisa Blackmer.
Other councilors were complimentary of Moresi taking on such a difficult property that's also been vacant for more than decade. And Councilor Marie T. Harpin thanked Rudd as well for his proposal, saying it was important to acknowledge local developers. "They're doing great work and we should appreciate it," she said.
Councilor Benjamin Lamb added that there is "definitely gravity" in the city at the moment around investing and returning properties to the tax rolls.
"It's absolutely key that we have more downtown housing and this is not only just downtown but it's also right across from ... our newest school in the district," he said. "So, I think that the location of this, the opportunity that it presents and also Mr. Moresi's track record are fantastic alignment of opportunities."
The city also has a request for proposals out for Sullivan School on Kemp Avenue. The council had turned down a bid on the school last year.
In other business, the council referred an ordinance banning the sale of animals from "puppy farms" to the General Government Committee.
• The mayor reminded small businesses that the city is offering microenterprise loans in collaboration with the Franklin County Community Development Corp. The forgivable loans are available up to $10,000 to cover operating costs incurred because of the pandemic.
• The winter parking ban begins on Sunday, Nov. 1. There is no parking on the streets at night and during snowstorms.
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