NORTH ADAMS >> The First Congregational Church of North Adams is getting out of the real estate business.
The church last week put up for sale its adjacent retail building on Ashland Street, and it is in the process of updating spaces inside the main church building, which will house offices and Sunday school rooms, according to Lois Daunis, a member of the congregation's Facilities Committee.
Groups that have utilized the church space will be largely unaffected, Daunis said. The Berkshire Food Project and Boy Scouts will continue to use the grand assembly hall.
But church leaders want to concentrate their efforts — and financial resources — on maintaining the 1864 church building.
"The congregation decided we don't need the space for ourselves," Daunis said during a tour of the work on Friday morning.
The building was listed with Steeple View Realty at $259,900. The first floor has six retail spaces, three of which are currently being rented, facing Ashland Street. The second floor has meeting and storage space as well as classrooms.
The congregation has owned the property since the early 1900s, according to land records. An older building belonging to the congregation was razed to make way for the 7,600-square-foot building in 1960 during the Main Street urban renewal project.
It would've made sense at the time, Daunis said, for the church to need more space for Sunday School classes and other programs given the baby boom.
"Today, faith communities are smaller," she said.
The congregation sees it as an opportunity to revitalize space inside the church.
"We want to create new opportunities to celebrate God's gift of life, free to be the church God calls us to be in this new age," the Rev. Carolyn Peck said in a statement.
Two large rooms on the church building's ground floor, formerly a parlor and library, are being converted to hold the pastor and church secretary, a conference room and a meeting space.
Upstairs, two rooms that were not being used are being redone into classrooms and the music ministry. Work includes cleaning, new coats of paints, installing new windows and renovating a bathroom.
Two balconies overlooking assembly hall will have their floors sanded, Daunis said. And banisters on the balconies and other areas will be raised in height to conform with code. McCann students created and installed decorative covers on radiators.
Church leaders are also looking at handicap and senior accessibility. A chairlift will be installed on the grand stairway to bring people upstairs if they need it.
Two entrances will be eliminated when the breezeway connecting the two buildings is torn down. But two new entrances will take their place and utilize long-unused doors.
People using wheelchairs currently enter through the kitchen entrance facing Church Street. A new side-entrance facing Main Street will be handicap accessible to make it easy for churchgoers to enter the sanctuary, Daunis said. A second boarded-up door facing Summer Street also will be reopened.
Daunis said remodeling on the classrooms are set to be done later this spring.
The three tenants in the retails spaces are DiLego Jewelry, Eat to Total Health and the Scizzor Sisterz salon.
Cynthia Lamore, owner of DiLego Jewelry, said the business is one of the building's original tenants. Her great-uncle started the business and moved it from Main Street. Lamore said she currently has no plans of moving to another retail location.
"We're looking forward to what positive changes a new owner may bring," Lamore said.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979.