To read the latest update of this story, please visit this version: Berkshire Co-op Market relocating. Also, for a related story, please read Berkshire Co-op acquisition of Clearwater Natural Foods put on hold.

GREAT BARRINGTON -- A long-awaited, massive $30 million redevelopment project on a blighted brownfields site near the heart of downtown took a major step forward on Wednesday with the announcement that the Berkshire Co-op Market, with $8.3 million in annual sales, will anchor the eight-acre mixed-use commercial, residential and recreational project, including a Housatonic River waterfront park, on Bridge Street.

The joint project on the former New England Log Homes factory site, now completing a final cleanup of probable cancer-causing contaminants, involves a collaboration among the Community Development Corp. of South Berkshire (CDC), Allegrone Construction Co. and the Berkshire Co-op, which would occupy a 10,000-square-foot space for its whole-foods style market and cafe, more than double the size of its current location on Bridge Street.

If all goes according to plan, groundbreaking would be late next fall for the market owned by its 3,500 members, said General Manager Art Ames during a briefing for The Eagle also attended by Timothy Geller, CDC executive director, and Ian Rasch, Allegrone's development director. Berkshire Co-op owners invest $150 for an equity stake in the for-profit business.

Ames explained that the market's board of directors wanted the co-op to remain downtown, and at their Nov. 28 meeting voted to move down the street to a much larger facility rather than expand at the current location.

"The best choice for the co-op and the town is to go to the Log Homes site," said Ames, who hopes the new market can reopen in October 2014.

The Co-op is expecting to spend $5 million to $6 million for its relocation, he indicated, with exact totals still to be determined.

The market currently occupies 4,500 square feet at 42 Bridge St., so the new store would more than double the available space not only for sales but also for community classrooms, offices and other facilities.

The commercial complex anchored by the Co-op would include offices, other "health and wholeness" retailers selling mostly Berkshire products, and possibly market-rate apartments, Geller said.

An assisted-care facility of 40 to 50 units would also be developed at the northeast corner of the site, to be sold to and built by an outside developer. Mixed-income rental housing of about 45 units also would occupy a portion of the area. Two acres of open space along the river would be reserved for recreational use.

As Geller explained, the CDC will retain ownership of the entire site and will enter a development partnership with Allegrone. He predicted that in five to 10 years, the Co-op Market would own its space through a condominium purchase with details still to be negotiated for a lease or other temporary arrangement until that time.

The contaminated site has been controlled by the CDC for 15 years; the organization became the owner in 2005, when it was determined that the former factory was contaminated by likely cancer-causing PCPs (polychlorinated phenols) emanating from creosote compounds used to coat the logs as well as dioxins, a waste product from the previous use of the location as a textile factory from around 1902 up to the 1960s.

State environmental regulators have yet to sign off on a clean bill of environmental health from the location following demolition of the factory buildings this past spring, pending final bioremediation -- cleanup and removal of the pollutants -- of the forlorn-looking property along the Housatonic. That cleanup is expected to be completed by next fall, Geller explained.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto.