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The Father Matthew Total Abstinence Society building is being renovated into reception and event space for the Tourists motel.

Tourists Resort's Plans for Former Mass Ave Church Approved

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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This illustration shows the parking and trails behind the former church building on Massachusetts Avenue.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board signed off on amended plans for the former Our Lady of Incarnation Church on Monday, coming weeks after the City Council approved a zoning change for the adjacent property and months after the plans were first presented.
 
The Blackinton Partners LLC — made up of various limited liability companies related to the Tourists resort — purchased what was originally the Father Matthew Total Abstinence Society building at 1288 Massachusetts Ave. several years ago to turn it into a restaurant and, when that fell through, had been approved as a reception and multipurpose space for the motel.
 
Any construction was put off because of the pandemic over the last year but the additional residential property to the east of the building, 1272 Massachusetts Ave., was purchased during that time. The extension of Business 2 zoning to cover that property had been requested by Centerville Sticks LLC in March and approved after a joint meeting of the Planning Board and City Council in May.
 
Eric Kerns, speaking on behalf of the partnership group, had reminded the boards then that the numerous parcels purchased between State Street, Ashton Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue had been consolidated for unified zoning in 2018. The lands had previously been a mix of residential, commercial and industrial and were merged into B-2.
 
"We just want to add this additional space, to the east, because this new addition to the side of the building is where we would like to construct circulation for the between the upper and lower floors, particularly a new elevator," he had explained. "It's much easier to do that, if it was outside the structure of 100-plus-year-old building than inside and it will also allow us to landscape."
 
The access to the back of the former church building is a narrow driveway adjacent 1272 Massachusetts Ave. 
 
The added parcel will also allow for a recessed lawn area outside. There will be added parking behind the structures and a new entrance. Kerns said there was also a "lot of historic dumping back in here" that would have be cleaned up. The 1888 single-family house on the property is in poor condition and would have be rehabilitated, he said, "with the eventual ... to utilize some support space for the other events."
 
According to the application, the former church would also be used for seasonal and rainy day offerings such as yoga, art classes and children's programs. The fiberglass steeple will be removed, the original wood siding restored and the new entrance with stairs and elevator made on the east side of the building. The rear of the building facing into the Tourists property will have a new deck and entrance on the lower level. The 1980s stairs on the back will be removed and new larger windows will be installed for views of the mountains. The expectation is the space will be ready for the 2022 season.
 
The interior of the building, which has also been used for community performances and as a day-care center, has already been gutted. The lower level will have a catering kitchen, mechanicals space and meeting rooms; the upper level will be open for flexible use and new restrooms installed. 
 
"I have been in the chapel, the former chapel, and it's quite spectacular interior space, and will provide much-needed event space for the hotel, which, during the pandemic has not had much call for events space," said attorney F. Sydney Smithers, representing the motel partners at the joint hearing. "But is now receiving calls from people who desire to have a wedding or Bar Mitzvah or other kinds of function, and the logical place for the hotel to have those functions is at the former Father Matthew Total Abstinence Society premises."
 
The Planning Board had received a letter from neighbors at the time of the joint hearing containing concerns about noise, parking and smells but there were no comments at Monday night's meeting and the plans were approved with no discussion. 
 
The planners also approved another application related to the partnership, this one through Blackinton Mill LLC to operate a carpentry shop on the first floor of the Blackinton Mill. Kerns said it was not a change of use since the shop had been used by the Williamstown Theatre Festival for its productions until it purchased the former Price Chopper on State Road.
 
"They left a pretty well-equipped carpentry shop," he said, because most of the tools and accessories had been built in place. The shop would support the partnership's renovation projects and carpentry needs. 
 
In other business: 
 
Planners approved the opening of The Garden at 11 Eagle St., the former Mia's Exchange, a second location for the BMX, skate board and apparel shop of Pittsfield. Hours will be 10 to 6 Monday through Saturday and 11 to 4 Sunday; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during the winter.
 
"This is our 20th year in business," said owner Luke Kessler. "It's just going to be a test shop. So it'd be six months that we will be there and then, hopefully next year, do a bigger lease and a full year up here." 
 
• Planner Bryan Miksic, whose Very Good Property Development did work on the building owned by Eugene Barry, welcomed Kessler and abstained from the vote.
 
"They just run a great business down in Pittsfield and I know my kids personally are really looking forward to a skate and BMX shop opening in North Adams," he said. "We really like to see how far Eagle Street has really come along in the last couple of years and we hope you guys stick it out."
 
• Samantha White was approved for secondhand shop at 14 Ashland St. She plans to offer "carefully curated" clothing, books, home goods and decor. "I want this store to be appealing and attractive to both locals and tourists, while still be affordable and accessible," she wrote in her application. The store will be open 10 to 8 daily.
 
• A letter from Shana Snow noting the name change of her gift shop business at 27 Eagle St. from Jeepers Creepers to Secret Stash was accepted. 
 

Tags: church reuse,   motels, hotels,   skateboard,   

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NA Housing Authority Closes Balconies, Sets Structural Survey

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The North Adams Housing Authority Board of Commissioners voted to close all balconies on its buildings and have a structural survey done.
 
Executive Director Jennifer Hohn asked the commissioners Monday to consider the actions out of an abundance of caution in light of the recent condominium collapse in the state of Florida.
 
"We just want to make sure nothing like that ever happens," Hohn said. "It is just proactive on our part."
 
The study would include Ashland Park (colloquially the "high rise") and Spring Park apartments — the two larger complexes located downtown.
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