Berkshire Co-op Market rethinks relocation to former Log Homes site
GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Berkshire Co-op Market is beginning to rethink its previous commitment to the former New England Log Homes site on Bridge Street.
Project delays and uncertainties regarding the massive $30 million redevelopment of the blighted downtown brownfield site have led one of the town's larger employers to consider walking away from the project.
Berkshire Co-op General Manager Art Ames said the Log Homes site remains the company's first choice for relocation.
But Ames said the Co-op has begun looking at new sites and re-exploring others because the market's redevelopment costs are still in question.
"If you were to call five weeks ago, I'd say we're moving to 100 Bridge Street, but now I am saying it's the top choice," Ames said.
Berkshire Co-op has been expected to anchor the redevelopment of the former Log Homes site, which has been vacant for decades. The eight-acre parcel, which previously served as a factory for New England Log Homes, is owned by the Community Development Corp. of South Berkshire. Plans call for the site to be developed for commercial, residential and recreational uses.
Construction was originally expected to begin this fall, but has been delayed until at least the fall of 2014 because the site hasn't been completely cleaned of contaminants.
"It's a complex site with riverfront, wetlands, flood plain and contamination issues; and there have been delays in both permitting and project structure that can be quite frustrating," said CDC Director Timothy Geller in a statement.
But Geller also said construction is unlikely to occur by next fall if the Co-op is not a tenant. The Berkshire Co-Op has 70 employees, and the market's presence in the project is considered crucial to the current development plans.
Geller said he understands the Co-op's current position.
"The Co-op is doing exactly what they should be doing, which is keeping their options open, while at the same time continuing the planning process with us," he said.
The Berkshire Co-op is ready to move from its current location at 42 Bridge St. immediately, according to Ames. He said waiting for the project to begin has affected the Co-op in several ways.
In anticipation of the move, Ames said the Co-op increased its management team. But the team is not being used effectively because it was formed to work in a bigger structure. The Co-op also joined the National Cooperative Grocers Association while anticipating the move, but has been unable to use the group's expertise because of the delays.
"At this stage of the game, the Co-op needs more information and details and specifics," Ames said. "In the meantime, I have to do my due diligence and search."
"I can't work with uncertainty and eventually we need a sure thing," he said.
The Co-op is seeking to double its current retail space to 9,000 to 10,000 square feet, but would require a 17,000- to 20,000-square-foot building to accommodate office space and a community area, Ames said.
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