The developers of a proposed downtown Great Barrington hotel continue to do what they can to address the concerns of town residents and officials while launching a project that will be economically viable for the long run.
The latest proposal for the Searles Middle School retains more of the building's exterior, specifically the four outer walls of the main structure, and reduces the rooms from 95 to 88. An exemption to the town bylaw limiting new hotel projects to 45 rooms can be granted if the project uses structures deemed to be of historic significance.
Using historic structures by definition means that they will go undergo changes, and in this case, the interior of the main building will be gutted. The 100-year-old structure, however, has now been empty for 10 of those years, and its crumbling status largely negates its historic or aesthetic value, if not its nostalgic value.
A new hotel maintaining exterior elements of the building recognizes its meaning to many residents while bringing an economic generator to downtown along with visitors. If the already bustling downtown becomes more crowded with traffic as a result of the hotel's presence, that inconvenience will be more than negated by the increased business for restaurants, taverns, theaters and retailers.
Hoteliers Vijay and Chrystal Mahida had already proved to be good business people and neighbors, and their efforts to address concerns have further demonstrated their determination to work with residents and town officials. These latest changes should lessen opposition and encourage Selectmen to approve the special permit needed to make this beneficial project a reality.