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The city partnered with Mass MoCA on a federal grant to study the connections between the museum and the downtown, especially the massive bridge and highway that splits the downtown area.

North Adams Awarded Federal Grant to Study Downtown Connections

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — North Adams is getting $750,000 in federal funding to rethink the Central Artery and consider ways to better connect the downtown to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. 
 
The city partnered with Mass MoCA on the application last fall for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act's Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program. The program is providing a $1 billion over the next five years for planning, construction and technical grants for communities affected by past infrastructure projects. 
 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey told the Mass MoCA Commission on Monday that they had received word on Friday that the grant was being awarded. 
 
"We have been told that we were awarded the grant so that is a big, big, big accomplishment and I have to commend the Mass MoCA group and Carrie Burnett from my team," she said. "There were a lot of weekend phone calls we had and conference calls on Zoom to get it done. But we're moving in the right direction."
 
Update: The grants were formally announced by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal on Tuesday. North Adams and Boston's Chinatown received the funding in Massachusetts. Boston gets $1.8 million for outdoor community space to help improve air quality and public health. Both grants are tied to the urban renewal projects in the 1960s that built freeways disrupting and bisecting neighborhoods. 
 
"President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has already delivered more than $3 million for the commonwealth, addressing the most pressing infrastructure needs confronting our communities,” said Neal. "The funding announced for the city of North Adams under the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program will help connect the city's downtown, providing a catalyst for economic growth and sustainability throughout the region."
 
Commissioner Gail Sellers, who had inquired about the status of the grant, questioned if more analysis had to be done. 
 
"I have a concern about that, because we've done a number of things to try to bring people from Mass MoCA to Main Street," she said.
 
The mayor agreed there's been a lot of analysis but this one will have a "different spin."
 
She explained that part of the study would be assessing the deteriorating Veterans Memorial Bridge, which is owned by the city; it would look at pedestrian connections and traffic patterns, and would include a community component.
 
"This does not mean in any way we're taking down the bridge, but that is something that we need to explore," she said. 
 
Visitors trying to get to downtown from the former Spraque Electric campus have to navigate a sea of parking lots, a street that's four lanes as it approaches the city center, numerous lights and crosswalks and a massive overpass. 
 
That area was leveled in the mid-1960s by the Central Artery Project that straightened out and widened Route 2 through the city and included the construction of the overpass. 
 
"Fixing the bridge is not going to help, in my mind, getting people from MoCA to downtown," said Sellers. "The bridge may need fixing and it's really a chunk of money. And that kind of money probably could be sucked up by the bridge repair or whatever in a heartbeat."
 
She said she hoped the study would look at the park MoCA put in along Marshall Street and if that was driving foot traffic downtown. 
 
Macksey said wayfaring and signage would among the components of the study.
 
Commissioner Eric Kerns said the application was "fantastic work" after reading it.
 
"You're going to see that it's not like what we've done before," he said to Sellers. "A big part of this is about taking a look further back and addressing the circulation and connectivity of downtown that was destroyed by urban renewal. ...
 
"It's incredible that there's the opportunity now to take a look at this in a much larger way, a much more ambitious way that's not just about, hey, let's get some people to walk downtown."
 
They haven't been thinking big enough, said Kerns. "This is a huge, like swing at a much further fence that I think is an exciting thing for us to be undertaking."
 
Macksey said she and the Mass MoCA team could give the commission more information at its next meeting. 
 
In other business, commission approved two new rentals on the museum campus. 
 
Chef Xavier Jones will be opening another Bigg Daddy's Philly Steakhouse, this time in the former gatehouse where A-OK Barbecue had been located. He's previously opened them in Adams and Pittsfield and currently operates the Fire House Cafe in Adams. 
 
Jones said he will have hamburgers, salads and barbecue in addition to his hometown Philly steak sandwiches. The eatery will be grab and go, although outside seating is available in the warmer months. He is shooting to open by the end of April and his hours will be 11 to 9 daily except Tuesday.
 
• Dalton-based Berkshire Dream Home Real Estate signed a three-year lease for a small office on the second floor of Building 13.
 
Kimma Stark, project manager at MoCA, said the agency will be using the 345 square foot office as needed. It employees 27 agents and support staff but is also recruiting two more agents specifically for North County.

Tags: federal grants,   mass moca,   

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Weekend Outlook: Student Art, Music & History

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
With the area warming up, events are blooming in the Berkshires this weekend, including an egg hunt, live music, fitness events, and more.
 
Editor's Picks 
 
Teen Invitational Reception
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art
Time: 6 to 8 p.m., Friday
 
The North Adams museum hosts its 12th annual reception for some of the amazingly talented teens in the region. The collaboration with the high school art teachers exhibits student work in a wide range of media through Sunday. The opening night reception concludes with awards and a music in the Hunter Center. 
 
Free and open to the public. 
 
Easter Egg Hunt
Whitney's Farm Market & Garden Center, Cheshire
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