NORTH ADAMS — After a second round of bidding, the Select Board unanimously approved of selling the former Notre Dame Church and school building to Moresi Commercial Investments for $10,000.
David Moresi, owner of Moresi Commercial Investments, told The Eagle that his plan for the buildings is mostly market-rate residential apartments, and possibly another use for the former church sanctuary.
The other bidder, the Barbara and Eric Rudd Foundation, bid $38,850. Rudd’s plan was to use the structures as an extension of the Berkshire Art Museum he founded just down the street.
The Square Office, a North Adams-based developer, earned rights to the historic property in 2018 with a $253,000 bid. The developer’s proposal called for the property to be transformed into a 64-room hotel with a variety of amenities. But the effort was unsuccessful, and the city issued a new call for bids earlier this year.
Notre Dame Church and school closed in 2005 as part of a reorganization by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield amid a decline in parishioners. The city bought it soon after in a effort to preserve the city’s steeples, according to state Rep. John Barrett III, who was mayor at the time.
Moresi said he intends to renovate the school building and turn it into 12 to 14 residential rental units. In the church building, he is not quite sure how the building will be used, but he expects there will be at least a few more residential units there as well. Overall, he said he expects to invest about $4.5 million in the project.
“We want to make sure that what we do there will be the best possible use, especially for North Adams,” Moresi said.
Mayor Thomas Bernard said the idea of having more residential housing close to the downtown and across from the Colegrove Park Elementary School is a desirable outcome, and holds promise for increasing the demand for more services and products in the downtown area.
He said it would also be nice to get the property out of the city’s hands and back on the tax rolls.
The two buildings are assessed at $1.4 million, and as a residential use would generate roughly $25,000 yearly under the current residential tax rate, according to Jessica Lincourt, administrative clerk in the North Adams Assessor’s Office.
Moresi’s team also is currently working on turning the former Johnson School into residential rental units, which should take about a year. During that time, he hopes to complete the early design and permitting work, and will be ready to start construction on the Notre Dame project once the Johnson School project is done.
He noted that there is “an overabundance of deplorable housing” in North County and that more housing is needed to drive further development. Already, he said, the pandemic has created a higher demand for housing in the Berkshires, and that he is seeing more people buying distressed properties and fixing them up.
“When we get more housing that is walkable to the downtown, what will follow is more development in the downtown,” Moresi said. “I firmly believe that is going to help really promote the growth of retail businesses.”
Of course, one of his priorities with that property is to stabilize and maintain the steeple, especially after the loss of the St. Francis steeple when the church was demolished in 2016.
North Adams has long been known as the Steeple City for its distinct skyline.
“I know we can not allow another steeple to come down,” Morsei said.