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Adams Selectmen to Determine Memorial School Developer

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Wayland North's vision of a revamped Memorial Building done in white. Both proposals will be deliberated on Wednesday. 
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen on Wednesday will be choosing a developer to transform the long-vacant Memorial School building into a mix of residential and commercial opportunities that will include affordable units under the town's Smart Growth zoning. 
 
Both of the finalists interviewed by the board last week indicated their optimism for this kind of housing in the county's biggest town. 
 
Jay Hayes of Wayland North, based in Providence, R.I., which is developing the Jones and Carlow blocks on Park Street, said there's an audience for this type of housing in Adams and that he thinks it will take a developer making the first investments to spur more growth.
 
"I think people are just waiting for it to happen. I think once it goes in, I think it's hopefully going to sort of kickstart everything, and it's just one economic revitalization, it's not a silver bullet but I think it's a very important building block to starting to revitalize the downtown, get local opportunities and employment from construction to maintenance," he said. "So what happens is rents increase, downtown is revitalized, and there's still apartments that are going great, affordable for the next 30 years. So, people will not get priced out of the market."
 
Michael Mackin, owner of Mackin Construction Co. Inc. in Greenfield, said the former school is prime for transformation into mixed development. 
 
"The building has great bones, I mean it's the perfect project for redevelopment," he said. "The existing construction of it lends itself so well for conversion into the resume is a residential site."
 
Both developers are planning one and two-bedroom apartments in the classroom wing. The town would maintain control over the Valley Street entrance and the gym and auditorium. Hayes is recommending a condominium model that he said would be "cleaner' would allow the town to keep ownership of those areas; Mackin had looked at a leasing situation but when the town was not interested said they had talked about a grant or other option to pick up the difference over a 20-year period. 
 
Mackin is proposing 22 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom units with the affordability of certain units — ranging from 21 to 50 percent — dependent on the financing package. Hayes has plans for 20 two-bedroom and four one-bedroom units and setting 20 percent of the units aside for affordable and said they will be mixed in, not separated. 
 
Both proposals would be a complete renovation with new windows, doors, mechanicals, etc. as well as landscaping and parking. Energy efficiency, solar and sustainability will be considered, with Mackin saying he will seek LEEDs or Net-Zero certification.
 
Mackin is looking to lease out the cafeteria area as a commercial space; Hayes is also planning for it to be commercial but is proposing a cafe that would serve the building's residents and others. 
 
The plans are dependent on a mix of grants, tax credits, loans and private equity. The proposals would utilize one or more of Low Income Housing Credits, Brownsfield funds, MassWorks, New Market Tax Credits, Affordable Housing Trust Funds, U.S. Housing and Urban Development programs, and similar funds. Mackin has offered $1 for the building and Hayes has so far left the figure as a question mark. 
 
Hayes said he would not start work until all of his financing was in place, estimating more than a year. Mackin said he has equity begin with the commercial space to get a tenant in to start generating revenue. Both said two to three years for completion. 
 
The Selectmen were clear in telling both developers that they wanted a project to be completed. 
 
"I won't mention names because that's not right, but key buildings here have been bought, they have been bought for a good price, and 13 years later, there's nothing there, never been an occupant, never been anybody in apartments they've planned, so that makes me leery," said Selectman Joseph Nowak. 
 
Mackin acknowledged he had a right to be concerned but thought 
 
"The three year schedule I think is realistic, but there's no reason I can't get in there and start doing demolition, can't get in there and start developing the commercial property and get a tenant in there and get some revenue generating," he said. While he'd probably have to wait for next year for answers on grant applications, he was willing to commit to getting started as soon as they had an agreement. 
 
Mackin said he has not done a project of this size on his own by he has worked on a number of residential projects in the area including the St. Mary the Morningstar conversion by CT Management in Pittsfield and the Cable Mills project in Williamstown. Hayes, in addition to the Jones and Carlow blocks, has worked in commercial real estate development including some of the redevelopment of the former Berkshire Hathaway Mills complex in New Bedford.
 
The finalists were selected by an in-house panel before being referred to the Board of Selectmen. A third applicant was BAMTEC, the Berkshire Advanced Manufacturing Training and Education Center, which has been trying to find a home for its advanced manufacturing program. 
 
The former Adams Memorial Middle School was built in 1952 as a high school and was later an elementary school. It was closed in 2009 because of budgetary and building issues and reopened for a year during the renovation of Hoosac Vally High School. 
 
The town has put out several requests for proposals over the years with little success. There had been hope that the more recent work done on the building — a new heating and ventilation system through Community Development Block Grant funds — and the passage of 40R Smart Growth zoning would spur interest. 
 
The town plans to keep the gym and auditorium areas for community use and the Council on Aging.

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Mama's Place Bringing Pub-Style Home Cooking to Adams

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

Owner AnnMarie Belmonte says the community has been very supportive of her newest venture, Mama's Place. 

ADAMS, Mass. — Mama's Place at 85 Commercial St. is spooning up homemade fare made by veteran restaurateur Annmarie Belmonte.

"It's pub-style food with specials that are more of what you would see in a homemade style," she said. "But the center of it is pub-style food at affordable prices."

Nearly two months after opening, Belmonte said the eatery is doing well.

Mama's Place opened on Oct. 5 and operates from 2 to 8 Tuesday through Friday and noon to 8 on Saturday for winter hours. Belmonte said she wanted to offer Adams something that it didn't have with Mama's Place.

Her goal with Mama's Place was to provide Adams with homemade food and desserts while also keeping it at an economical price. She is active on the eatery's Facebook page, often posting about specials and deals for the restaurant.

"I do a soup every day. They're always homemade. It's not anything that's coming from a can. So basically, it was to offer something in town that was different and affordable," she said. "That's basically what the whole vibe is here. I do homemade whoopie pies and cookies. I also have homemade chocolates that I do."

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