PITTSFIELD -- After a four-year shutdown, the former Patriot Suites at the southern gateway to the city has taken on new life as the Berkshire Mountain Lodge, a timeshare resort with up to 146 renovated units for sale. For short stays, 10 to 15 suites are available for rental to tourists, with a two-night minimum.

The major upgrade to the five-floor property at 7 Dan Fox Drive, off Routes 7 and 20, represents a $1 million investment by the Berkley Group, the parent company of Vacation Village Resorts, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A subsidiary, Patriot Suites, Inc., owns the Pittsfield property, while Tricom Management, a Berkley Group affiliate based in Anaheim, Calif., will manage it.

At Berkshire Mountain Lodge, all 146 condo suites are identical, explained General Manager Marcia Graves of Adams. There are two "pet-friendly" rooms on the ground level, as well as four handicapped-designated units.

The condos include a living room, a full kitchen, and bedroom with WiFi and flat-screen TVs. An indoor pool and outdoor play area for children are available to owners and short-stay guests. There is also a large meeting room as well as a smaller conference room.

Currently, Graves said, 32 units are available as one-week timeshares. By late summer, another cluster of 32 or more units should come on the market based on customer demand, she added.

"Not everyone who buys a timeshare uses it," she pointed out. "The empty rooms that aren't being used will be available for rentals."

Currently, 19 units have been purchased by close to 1,000 owners who now possess deeds for specific one-week periods each year. "If you buy week 10, you come week 10 every year, but you won't stay in the same room," said Graves. "We give you whatever's available so that we can keep units open for renters."

Purchase prices range from $3,000 to $5,000, depending on the week selected -- summer season weeks are the most expensive. The annual maintenance fee is $430. Owners are responsible for selling their timeshare unit if and when they choose to.

At this point, the per-night rate for a short stay is $119 off-season, but rises to $189 in July and August, with a two-night minimum seasonally.

The timeshare industry is "bouncing back," Graves noted, "because the cost of hotel rooms in all-inclusive resorts is going up so much that it's more reasonable for people to own it and be able to come back and use it year after year, or to trade it."

"Some buyers make the purchase with the intent of trading it," she added, "with no intention whatsoever of coming to the Berkshires. They just buy it so they can trade it to go somewhere else." Typically, units are bought sight unseen, with buyers relying on photos available online.

"So far, all our guests who've come have not had any complaints," Graves stated. "They've all been very satisfied and happy, they think the facilities are beautiful. So far, so good."

Even when all 146 units are sold, said Graves, there will be limited-availability rentals for tourists.

For a fee, RCI, a timeshare industry exchange company, enables owners to trade their designated week for a different week -- any time of the year -- at another resort. RCI, which bills itself as the world's largest timeshare exchange network, lists 7,166 resorts available, including 1,833 in the U.S., 2,866 in Europe, 575 in Asia, 488 in Mexico and 362 in South America.

Following groundbreaking on the hilltop site in October 2003, Patriot Suites opened in mid-2005 at the height of the real-estate boom.

It was originally projected to include 290 suites to be built in two phases on the 23-acre parcel at cost of about $20 million. But only the first phase was completed, with 146 units. The hotel was designed to house prospective buyers for the Vacation Village timeshare condos in Hancock. Patriot Resorts Corp., is the owner of the complex across from Jiminy Peak, which has 360 units in 20 buildings.

The Patriot Suites hotel suspended operations in March 2010. Company officials declined to explain the reasons for the shutdown, but said it was unrelated to the deepening recession. They said business had been "surprisingly good," declining only two to three percent during the previous year.

In September 2012, the former Vacation Village sales complex on Route 7 in Lanesborough was put on the market for $2.1 million. The 6.7-acre site includes six buildings. The entire property is now listed at $1,895,000, with lower prices for smaller parcels, said Realtor Barb Hassan.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
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