Renovations slow to show at former Great Barrington firehouse

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Nearly two years after a private developer purchased the former town firehouse on Castle Street, the exterior of the building remains in disrepair and officials have begun raising questions about the plans for the structure.

But a representative of the development group said despite the crumbling exterior, improvements already have been made to the interior and more is to come.

Attorney Edward G. McCormick, representing the developers, said the group has installed a new $65,000 heating system and is presently pondering further improvements to the building.

"When we signed a contract, we agreed with the town that there was no timetable," McCormick said. "We didn't say we were going to do something in one year, two years, five years, 10 years or beyond. We are living up to the agreement."

In 2009, the town closed the station and moved into a new fire station on State Road. There are still town offices in the building who remain as tenants.

The development group, 20 Castle Street, purchased the former fire station in 2014 after about a year of negotiations. The sale price was $50,000. But the town also was required to pay about $270,000 in environmental cleanup costs, with Castle Street on the hook for another $80,000.

Twenty Castle initially indicated plans to renovate the building as a vocational training facility, but that vision has yet to materialize.

The brick facade on the building's exterior is deteriorating, and the alley behind the structure is in need of repair, as well. McCormick said the alley is owned by the developers and subject to repairs at their discretion.

He said there are preliminary plans, already in progress, to renovate the first and second floors. In addition, there are plans to renovate the retaining wall at the north end of the fire station.

"Things are happening there," he said.

But, McCormick said, he didn't envision any exterior work until plans for the interior are finalized.

In 2014, a preliminary estimate of exterior renovation costs came to more than $500,000.

The town has approved special tax incentives to help get the project off the ground, but those incentives are contingent on job creation at the facility.

The owners are paying about $4,100 in taxes annually, with no town incentives, said Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin.

With the building in distress, the Select Board this week indicated it would like to hear a formal update from the developers.

"We sold this building on the idea that it would be used for something," said Select Board Chairman Sean Stanton. "I want to see something there."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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