Thursday May 31, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The Elm Street parcel that housed the former Harry's Supermarket has a new owner.

Two months after Harry's closed its Elm Street market, the four-acre parcel was purchased for $900,000 by Centennial Realty Holdings LLC, a real estate arm of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, according to documents on file at the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds.

Pittsfield Cooperative President Jay Anderson said the bank plans to demolish the 19,650-square-foot structure by summer's end.

The bank will then decide whether to move its headquarters from South Street to Elm Street or construct another bank branch on the site. Demolition is expected to begin in July.

"At the very least, it's going to be a bank branch," Anderson said. "We've had good growth with loans and deposits and if we maintain that growth and it continues, we're going to grow out of this site [on South Street] pretty quickly."

Founded in 1889, the Pittsfield Cooperative Bank currently operates two branches in Pittsfield and one each in Dalton and Great Barrington.

Anderson said the bank's current headquarters on South Street is too small for the modern conveniences that customers are accustomed. "This place has challenges," Anderson said. "There's limited parking, and you can't put a drive-up ATM in there."

If the bank does decide to move its headquarters to Elm Street, it will use the South Street location as another branch office, Anderson said. "That's a long way off," he said.

Anderson said the bank had been interested in the location even before Harry's announced in February that it would close its Elm Street location by mid-March. The Nichols family, which founded Harry's in 1914, closed its Elm Street store for economic reasons.

"If you look around downtown, there's very few sites that are between four and six acres," Anderson said. "We had identified a number of them and when this one became available, we jumped on it pretty quickly."

"You just can't find a site of that size within the business district," he said.

Due to regulatory conditions, Anderson said the bank created Centennial Realty Holdings LLC as a vehicle to house its real estate purchases until they are ready to operate as branches. Through Centennial, the Pittsfield Cooperative Bank also purchased two parcels on the corner of North and Burbank streets for $150,000 last December that it also plans to use for a branch office.

The Elm Street parcel had been owned since 1977 by Robert K. and Donald W. George. The building itself was constructed in 1940, according to the Pittsfield assessor's office. A&P operated a supermarket from 1960 until Harry's moved in 16 years ago. The assessed value of both the land and the building is $827,200, according to city records.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.
On Twitter: @tonydobrow