image description
Plans for a Starbuck, fast-food restaurant and retail spaces on the corner of Union and Eagle streets in North Adams.
image description
The now vacant lot had hosted what was once the largest Catholic church in New England as well as a rectory and convent.

North Adams Planners OK Starbucks Development on Problem Corner

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story

Peter LaPointe of Colvest Group reviews aspects of the development plan at Monday's Planning Board hearing. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday approved a multi-tenant redevelopment of the former St. Francis property that will include a long-rumored Starbucks.
 
The special permit includes the site plan, a variance to the 35-foot setback and, as a condition, the addition of curbing to restrict driveway access on Eagle Street to right-turns only.
 
Colvest Group of Springfield plans to construct three buildings with four to six retail spaces, two drive-throughs and parking for 57 vehicles at the corner of Union and Eagle streets. 
 
Starbucks has committed to occupying a 2,500 square-foot building, said Peter LaPointe, vice president of real estate and construction for Colvest, and another national chain has signed a letter of intent for the "fast food" location on the plans. 
 
LaPointe said he could not name the restaurant at this time and that there were no tenants yet for the retail portions. Colvest would continue to own and maintain the property.
 
Colvest purchased the 1.9-acre lot in 2018 for $1.4 million, two years after the historic Catholic church was razed. The company demolished the rectory last year.
 
Planners have long considered this entrance corridor problematic because of traffic congestion at the lights where Eagle and Union/Veterans Memorial Drive (Route 2) cross. This is in part caused by drivers trying to enter and exit McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts directly across from the St. Francis property.
 
Designer Vanasse Hangen Brustlin had tried to avoid adding to the traffic dilemma by restricting turns on one of the two entrances on Union. 
 
A third driveway on Eagle near the intersection with Center and Church street was initially full access but modified to right turn in and out at the request of the city, said traffic engineer Scott Haskins, and included the relocation of the crosswalk. 
 
He said the 100-page traffic report was based on data collected in March and May as well as numbers taken last August from the state Department of Transportation. The higher of the figures were plugged into a standard engineering reference regarding the types of entities proposed.  
 
"We're projecting that the facility will generate about 2,800 trips on a daily basis. Half of them entering and half of them exiting," he said. "The impacts that we have should be significantly less than what we're presenting in our report in terms of the directional distribution of traffic to and from the site."
 
Planners Lisa Blackmer and Rye Howard were not convinced that the intersection could handle more drive-throughs, particularly pointing to problems with drivers making lefthand turns and pedestrians. 
 
Howard wanted more time to review the traffic report and expressed concern that the intersection would drop in service level — creating an extra 3-5 second delay — at certain intervals. 
 
"Obviously, it's not a huge change in counts. But, boy, I mean when you say that intersection is bad, that intersection is really bad to like being a joke in town about how bad the intersection is," they said. 
 
Blackmer said the prior Planning Board was also assured with a traffic study when the Dunkin Donuts drive-through was approved nearly 20 years ago. 
 
"I get constant complaints about that intersection ... I'm sorry but it's ridiculous the way it is now with the businesses already existing," said Blackmer, a city councilor who also works in a building close to the intersection. "I can't imagine adding not one but two drive-ups to this intersection."
 
She also questioned Colvest's upkeep of the property after the demo of the rectory left a mosquito-filled "pond" that was an "embarassment" and a safety hazard. 
 
 "It really seems like you're taking the worst intersection in town, making it a little bit worse," Planner Jesse Lee Egan Poirier said. "Is there any way that this project can be an opportunity to make this bad intersection better instead of worse?"
 
 Haskins said the plans he was shown by the city had a different layout and timing of the lights that apparently were never implemented.
 
 Attorney Jeffrey Grandchamp, representing Colvest, said placing a coffeeshop across the street from the current one could actually reduce lefthand turns.  
 
 Planner Kyle Hanlon he thought the property should be developed as retail.
 
"Thank you for investing in our communities, or attempting to invest in our community," he said. "I also find it aesthetically adequate."
 
Resident Paul Moriarty thought the board should take more time to review the proposal but Building Inspector William Meranti said intersection's "danger" was more a matter of perception. 
 
"It's not a huge problem," he said. "But the development is quite substantial for the city."
 
Hanlon motioned to approve and Chair Brian Miksic placed a condition that the Eagle Street entrance have split curbing to restrict lefthand turns; the planners agreed that proposed signage would not work. 
 
Blackmer said she would vote to continue, with Howard supporting. But the motion was already on the floor and the vote was recorded as seven for with Howard abstaining. (The board is down one member.)
 
"The traffic problems that exist there are not a result of this project," said Poirer. "If it was organized exactly the way that this project was organized, we wouldn't be having a conversation."
 
The total square footage of the buildings will be a little than 9,000 square feet and structures will be glass, masonry, wood, modern cladding, and metal canopies. Parking will largely be in the front, as allowed by changes in zoning last year.
 
John Furman of VHB said little needed to be done in terms of stormwater drainage as the development will have 700 square feet less impervious surface area. It will require an 18-to-24-foot retaining wall on the south side. 
 
In other business: 
 
The board approved a special permit for New England Regional Dispensary to operate within the former Doran's Carpet at the corner of Curran Highway and Old State Street. CEO Chad Cellana said the cannabis dispensary would takeover the space most recently used by Bill's Sporting Goods, which moved to Ashland Street. As part of the approval, the board noted that the state no longer requires a buffer zone for sports and playing fields.
 
The operation would depend on a license from the Cannabis Control Commission. The city currently has one retail dispensary license and now three approved operators seeking to obtain it. 
 
• Greylock Yoga and Movement was approved to relocate into a larger space in Greylock Works East to accommodate and expanding clientele and Gregory Kerwood was approved for two short-term rental properties at 316 East Main St. and 17 Wesleyan St.  
 
• Miksic reported to the board that after discussions with the city solicitor, the year-round cabins proposed for the glamping recreation area on Notch Road will require an amended special permit and a public hearing. Owner Ben Crespi had requested simple approval at the May meeting.
 

Tags: Planning Board,   retail,   

If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at info@iberkshires.com.

Blue Sox Hold Off SteepleCats in Ninth

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The North Adams SteepleCats scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but the Valley Blue Sox held on for a 7-5 win at Joe Wolfe Field in New England Collegiate Baseball League action on Friday.
 
Andrew Estrella went 2-for-5 with a home run and a double in an 11-hit attack for the visitors.
 
Darin Kuskie struck out four and allowed one run in five innings of work to earn the win on the mound.
 
For the SteepleCats, Monument Mountain graduate Jayder Raifstanger and Mount Greylock grad Derek Paris each doubled and drove in a run.
 
Taconic alum Sam Sherman went 2-for-3 and scored a pair of runs for North Adams.
 
And Pittsfield High grad Cam Sime was one of five pitchers for the SteepleCats.
 
North Adams (5-7) Sunday goes to Holyoke to play the Blue Sox.
View Full Story

More North Adams Stories