GREAT BARRINGTON — A local development group has big plans for 47 Railroad St., the home, most recently, of Mario's Italian restaurant.
"We're trying to repurpose these buildings through shared use," said Benchmark Group Managing Member Ian Rasch.
Rasch and fellow developer Sam Nickerson presented their plans to Great Barrington's Design Advisory Committee on Thursday. The two men are founding partners at the eight-month-old Benchmark, and bought the 47 Railroad property in April of 2016.
Michael Valenti of S-K Designs showed the basic plans to the committee, stressing the site development's adherence to the aesthetic of the existing downtown.
The design plan is for five retail spaces on the first floor. That will convert the existing restaurant and bar into three units, while a newly constructed three-story addition in the back where the kitchen stands now will hold two stores.
On the second floor of the building, the developers plan to put in seven market-rate apartments. The third floor will have five units and a hall-accessible garden on the roof of the center building that now houses the main restaurant space and offices in its two stories.
This plan is the latest rebirth of the building. Converted to Pearl's restaurant in 2000, the building hosted Fiori and Mario's restaurants after Pearl's closed in 2009. The storefront has sat vacant since the New Year. Benchmark's plans represent a complete reimagining of the space.
"We want a diversity of activity," said Nickerson.
The front of the building facing Railroad Street and East Mountain will be converted into a glass storefront on the ground floor for maximum retail.
"We're drawn to an industrial-type design like the one that exists," Valenti said. "Our plans haven't really changed the aesthetic of the building."
The developers want to build the three-story back addition out of corten steel. That type of steel, Valenti explained, will rust to the point that it matches the color of the existing brick.
The committee asked about Martin's, the popular breakfast eatery that sits, attached, to the north of the building. The restaurant was burned badly in a fire the night of June 9. Rasch was cautiously optimistic, but said that the restaurant's owners were struggling with their insurance company and difficult to reach at the moment.
"We'd love to buy Martin's," he said. "It's built-in space. We'd welcome the opportunity."
The committee enthusiastically, and unanimously, voted their recommendations of support of the design as presented. The next step is obtaining a building permit from the Select Board.
"This is an ambitious project," committee member Steve Dietemann said. "Good luck to you."