Long a blight on the Great Barrington landscape and a source of unrealized potential, the former New England Log Homes factory site will be coming back to life as early as next fall. That the successful Berkshire Co-op will be expanding there doubles the good news for the South Berkshire community.
A collaboration among the Co-op, the Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire (CDC) and Allegrone Construction, the project will consist of an eight-acre mixed-use, residential and recreational site, including a waterfront park along the Housatonic River. The 3,500-member owned co-op will move from its nearby location at 42 Bridge Street to a 10,000-square-foot space more than twice the market's current size.
The co-op's popularity has necessitated its expansion, and this move -- contingent upon the approval of the appropriate town boards -- would enable that expansion while keeping the co-op downtown and reclaiming riverfront property. Mixed-income apartments, retailers, professional offices and an assisted-care facility would also be part of the mix on the site, and this kind of variety should help the project address occasional downturns in any one of the businesses represented.
Most of the property is located in a 100-year flood plain, which given the new realities brought by global warming, could mean it is now in a three- or four-year flood plain. Construction and drainage must be accomplished with this in mind. As far as placing a food market on a former brownsfield site, the key word is "former." A nearly $4 million cleanup of PCBs and dioxins left over from the defunct factory is nearing completion and state regulators will need to give it a final OK.
If all concerns are addressed and approvals given, the town will have revived a blighted site and put it back on the tax rolls, allowed a thriving business to expand, provided room for other uses, removed the strain from the cramped downtown, and reclaimed property along the river. This would obviously add up to a big boost for Great Barrington.