North Adams aims to sell buildings to fund capital projects

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NORTH ADAMS — The city is aiming to sell off a number of assets, including the Windsor Mill, Sullivan School and Notre Dame Church, to pay for other much-needed repairs and improvements.

The city has already gotten an appraisal done on the Windsor Mill while appraisals are under way at Sullivan School on Kemp Avenue and the Notre Dame Church on East Main Street.

"As soon as we get those other two, we're going to throw [a request for proposals] for all of that stuff and see if we can't sell that stuff and bring in some capital."

Among the necessary expenditures the city is facing are improvements to the city's public safety building on Summer Street and potentially finding a new home for the Department of Public Works.

All three buildings have been under city ownership since before Alcombright's tenure as the mayor began in 2009. The Windsor Mill remains active, but Sullivan School closed earlier this year when the new Colegrove Park Elementary School took its place and Notre Dame Church was closed by the diocese in 2005.

The requests for proposals are expected to be issued this spring. Though they will not outline or restrict potential uses for the church or school building, Alcombright said the city will be careful to ensure any accepted proposal fits the character of a building's neighborhood.

"There could be something we're not even thinking of, and once we limit it, people get pushed away. If you leave it open — obviously we have the right to refuse, so if it's something too outlandish, we just say no," said city Administrative Officer Michael Canales.

Alcombright was particularly interested in the potential revenue a sale of the Windsor Mill — which is home to about 10 tenants. The future of those tenants would be up to the new owner, but Alcombright said having a viable revenue stream would be an asset for a potential buyer.

Revenue from the Windsor Mill, which has hosted small businesses for more than two decades, is kept in a separate account off of the city's budget.

"The Windsor Mill is just not generating enough in profit that it could turn money back to the city," Canales said. "The only way for it to do that is for someone to come in and market it, fill up the all the space — things that we just don't have the expertise or time to do."

Alcombright also pointed out that the city-owned facility competes with the private sector.

"It was originally purchased and developed to become an incubator for small business," Alcombright said. "It hasn't been managed long-term to that effect, and many of the folks are in there have been there a long time and they're fairly mature businesses."

Although the businesses inside the Windsor Mill pay taxes to the city based on their square footage, the city-owned building does not. Under a private owner, the entire building would be taxed.

The revenue from any sales would help pay for the improvements to the public safety building, which at least will need to be updated to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

"It's going to cost a lot of money just to meet the ADA [requirements], but not improve the functionality of the police or fire," Canales said. "It's just so difficult to think how are we going to spend possibly in the millions and not improve the functionality?"

City officials also are considering finding a new home for the DPW, which they say is a better option than making extensive renovations and repairs to the current facility on Ashland Street.

"Those buildings are falling apart," Canales said.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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