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Town officials had long hoped to restore the 1850s-era coal and grain building as part of a park along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail but the cost may be too much overcome.

Adams Officials Conflicted on Future of Coal and Grain Building

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen and town staff are conflicted on what to do with the coal and grain building off Columbia Street that will need significant funding for restoration.


Community Development Director Eammon Coughlin came before the board on Wednesday to discuss the cost associated with a restoration. He said design work for stabilizing the building at 1 Cook St. would cost about $100,000, and going through with a stabilization project would cost significantly more. 


"The architect's current estimate for, essentially, just stabilizing the highest portion of the tower, the grain tower itself, is currently at around $700,000. And if we want to undertake stabilizing and rehabilitating the office areas, the process would cost over a million dollars," he said. "That's, basically, what's needed to put a new roof on the building, keep the weather out, make the floor stable, replace footings ensure the building's not going to fall down. It doesn't really turn the building into anything essentially useful for the town." 


The building and an accessory structure, which shares a retaining wall, were built in the mid-1800s along what was then the rail line as storage for the Renfrew Manufacturing Co. and later used by a coal and grain company. Several board members recognized the historical value of the building and a desire to preserve it. The town took ownership of the property via tax title about a decade ago. 


Coughlin said the building is not, despite its age, on the historic register, meaning it is not eligible for grant funding that goes toward historic buildings. He said Community Development Block Grant funding could fund design work, but would take away from other projects the grant could fund. 


"Unless we do major town meeting appropriations to design and construction for the building, CDBG is really the only route we have grant funding," he said.  


Program Manager Rebecca Ferguson said the building's demolition would be a neutral impact for the proposed dog park that will soon take up the rest of the site. That project, she and Coughlin noted, is expected to go out to bid in the near future. 


"I think that's always been the vision, that we would be able to use these buildings and incorporate their use into the park," Ferguson said. "Visually, the buildings as they stand now are not great; once that park goes in those buildings are a lot worse. I think there could be some safety issues with those buildings as they stand now once the park goes in." 


Board Chair John Duval said he has supported restoring the building since the late James Bush was on the board. He said he is unsure if the town has the resources to restore the building with the other projects going on in Adams. 


"Maybe it's time we start making some difficult decisions, and we can't do everything," he said. 


Selectman Howard Rosenberg suggested the town, essentially, donate the building to an organization that would be willing to renovate and repurpose it, such as a historical nonprofit or creative group. 


"If we put out an RFP for an alternative use of the building and sold it to them for a dollar. Would that be a big effort to do that," Rosenberg asked Coughlin, who said such a project would not require a lot of work from Community Development. 


Selectman Joseph Nowak suggested the town reach out on the federal level to try and get funding for the building. He said keeping the building would preserve part of the community's history. 


"Every time you take down a historic building, you lessen the history of your community," he said. "Because the rail got us where we we're at the beginning of our time as a community and helped transform us into a manufacturing center. It's a beautiful building. I don't know where to stand on it."

Tags: CDBG,   historic buildings,   

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Bricks Falling from North Adams Mill Causes Sidewalk Closure

Staff ReportsiBerkshires

This drone image taken by Nick Mantello in 2017 shows how the interior of the mill is gone. A concrete pad was poured along the north side and steel struts put in place to stabilize the wall. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The sidewalk is once again closed on the south side of Union Street along the historic Hoosac Mill because of falling bricks. 
The century-old mill had a catastrophic roof collapse more than a decade ago, caused by excessive snow load, and the interior had to be gutted and the walls fortified. 
The nearly 200 yards of sidewalk was closed off for months and years at a time after the collapse and again several years ago as owner Ariel Sutain worked with an engineering firm to try to save some elements of the distinctive sawtooth roof.
The "serrated" roof configuration was made to allow for east-facing windows that brought light into the 265,000 square-foot textile mill. Those windows were covered over years ago.
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