Great Barrington Select Board paves way for transformation of former Mario's restaurant


GREAT BARRINGTON — A plan to repurpose a former downtown restaurant into mixed-use development has cleared its final municipal hurdle.

The Select Board on Monday unanimously approved Benchmark Management Group's special permit application for the project at 47 Railroad St., despite some concerns over parking.

Benchmark representative Ian Rasch told the board that his group plans to renovate the former Mario's Restaurant into five commercial spaces on the first floor of the structure. Two of those five spaces will turn the corner into the adjacent alley on the south side of the structure.

Rasch and fellow developer Sam Nickerson purchased the property in April 2016. The $3 million project also would create a total of a dozen apartments on the second and third floors.

Monday night's meeting was the culmination of a host of permissions obtained by the development group.

Benchmark has obtained approvals from the Planning Board, Design Advisory Committee and building inspector, according to the group's engineer, James Scalise of SK Design. The group also met with the Conservation Commission, which determined there were no major environmental issues. The design also got a green light from the Fire Department, Scalise said.

After some discussion, the Select Board agreed to waive the parking requirement of 12 spaces for a project of that scope. Absent parking on the lot, the developers had arranged with Taconic parking lot owner Richard Stanley to dedicate 12 spots on the south portion of that lot to meet town regulations.

But Selectmen's Chairman Sean Stanton noted that the 12 spots in question "were already being filled" by tenants and customers of other businesses and apartments surrounding the nearby lot.

"Where are they going to go?" he asked.

"That's the question," conceded Scalise.

"Well, it's ridiculous that you'd take parking that is already in use," Stanton said.

Following extended discussion, Stanton and the rest of the board supported the parking waiver so as not to cause problems for existing tenants, both business and residential, in that area. Scalise, Rasch and the rest of the development team were not opposed.

Rasch added that he would support an effort to expand parking in that area, either by buying up property behind Railroad Street or even constructing a parking garage.

"It may," said Stanton, "be a discussion we need to have in Town Hall."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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