Kate Collignon, partner at HR&A Advisors, explains a new strategic economic development plan commissioned by the North Adams Partnership during a press
Kate Collignon, partner at HR&A Advisors, explains a new strategic economic development plan commissioned by the North Adams Partnership during a press conference in North Adams on Thursday. ( Jack Guerino/New England Newspapers)

NORTH ADAMS -- A new strategic plan envisions the city as an urban center for intellectual creativity.

The multi-phase plan, commissioned by the North Adams Partnership (NAP), calls for the creation of physical connections between major assets, such as Mass MoCA and MCLA; enhancements to the downtown and major corridors leading into it, and investment in housing stock and retail spaces.

"The plan is designed to stimulate private investment in North Adams and link private investment with public resources, with the result of turning the vision which is set forth in the plan into real projects with real economic benefit to the city," John DeRosa, a member of the NAP board of directors, said Thursday during a news conference at City Hall. "This is not a plan we intend to keep on the shelf. We're going to make these priority projects and make those projects reality."

Commissioned with private funds, NAP retained the services of the New York City-based HR&A Advisors Inc., a consulting firm, and SHoP Architects, to develop the plan, which includes priorities such as repositioning Heritage State Park as the Greylock Market, the creation of a combined Historical Society and Hoosac Tunnel museum and the creation of green spaces, art sculptures and biking trails, as well as rebranding highway and streets signs.

Kate Collignon, a principal at HR&A Advisors, said the plan was designed around four goals: Attracting young families to the city; providing an environment to support entrepreneurs; finding ways to encourage tourists and visitors to stay longer; and ensuring that Mass MoCA tourists visit other destinations in the downtown.

"One of the challenges is that the city's assets are not well-connected or visible," she said, noting a lack of green spaces and an excess of parking and paved areas in the downtown. "The great thing about the downtown is its walkability."

Collignon said the most ambitious and long-term vision is the creation of a "town common" in the center of the downtown, which would include public amenities. Initial concepts include a amphitheater, carousel and marketplace.

Phase 1 includes the rebranding and repositioning of Heritage State Park into Greylock Market, an artesianal craft center, the relocation of the Historical Society and Hoosac Tunnel museums to a new facility to be built at the former Sons of Italy site, the creation of a co-work space facility to foster entrepreneurship, new signage and the development of the northwest corner of Marshall and Main streets into a a public green space and shared commercial space that connects Mass MoCA to the downtown.

"We have identified equity investment opportunities of $2.7 million to $4 million that would seed the coworking space, a downtown housing project, start up funds for an outdoor retailer and the revitalization of Heritage State Park," she said.

"Then we anticipated a need for additional grants and gifts of $3.7 to 4.4 million that would go towards planning for the town commons, the pedestrian and bike path connections and signage."

Before Thursday's announcement, NAP had already announced it had helped raise the $1.5 million from 18 investors to help the Greylock Market move forward.

"The Partnership has also funded the concept and feasibility work for a new combined museum, called The Junction. That work is being done by the architectural firm of Clark and Green," DeRosa said. "SHoP Architects has been commissioned to do further concept and design work on the northwest corner of Main and Marshall streets and the Route 2 entrance bridge."

He added, "The plan as designed is articulating a vision. It's from a point of view of if dollars weren't an issue and we could start over from the beginning. It's a grand vision, and it lets us start talking about that vision. We've set the vision high, and that sets a framework we can work within.

"We're going to start doing this piece by piece. As the landscape starts changing, the vision becomes a reality."

He declined to provide more information on the museum plans or to further elaborate on the plans for the corner of Main and Marshall streets.

North Adams Partnership: Strategic Economic Development Plan by Jennifer Huberdeau