NORTH ADAMS — The fate of the Mohawk Theater is not yet clear, but the public can soon weigh in on it.
Mayor Jennifer Macksey announced Tuesday night that she is rejecting the sole proposal from Veselko Buntic and Dowlin Building LLC to purchase the building and is instead planning to restart the process over again with more community input.
“Most of my decision is based on process,” she told the City Council at a Zoom meeting Tuesday, “and the fact that we’ve discovered there’s an existing loan on the Mohawk Theater with a remaining balance of close to $52,000 in interest. I’m hopeful we will put forth a new RFP (request for proposals) in the next 30 to 45 days.”
She said she spoke to Buntic about her decision.
“He was a little discouraged, but we had a great conversation. I’m hopeful he will submit when the new RPF comes out. So again, this is no reflection on Mr. Buntic and his proposal. It’s solely based on process and other aspects of developing a sound RFP that move North Adams in the best direction it can for this property.”
Last year when the city put out a request for proposals to redevelop the theater, Buntic submitted the only pitch. He proposed buying the building for $21,000 and turning it into a multipurpose event and performance space. Then-Mayor Tom Bernard wanted to move a sale to Buntic forward. After multiple meetings, including a special meeting where the public asked Buntic questions, the City Council decided to wait until Macksey was in office to make a decision on the sale. The council also decided it would need to approve the purchase of the building.
Bernard and Macksey did not agree on this issue, and Macksey last month said that the first time she met with Bernard, she asked him not to sell it.
“This process has been very rocky,” Macksey said at a City Council meeting in mid-December. “It absolutely makes no sense to make a decision of this magnitude in the last days of Mayor Bernard’s term.”
“I would respectfully disagree this has been a rushed process,” he said last month. “I do believe this is a project I took on and it is one I’d like to see to completion.”
On Tuesday, Macksey said she wants to see more community involvement.
“I would like to have a couple focus groups with the community and then craft an RFP in conjunction with someone on the committee, the City Council, in joining my team to craft an RFP with exact expectations and timeline for the respondent,” she told the council.
Councilor Michael Obasohan asked Macksey for more details on the focus group’s role.
“I’d like to have a couple focus groups before we craft the RFP to talk to the community, as well as business people, about what we think that property can be,” Macksey said, “And use that information to craft an RFP with some set expectations of how we want it develop, keeping in mind that we all have to realize that we can’t go backwards and that it may never be the Mohawk Theater as we knew it.”
Macksey hopes to have focus groups open to the public in February and then to release a new RFP in March. She wants to see a member of the City Council and a person from the public to join the city committee that reviews submitted proposals.
“I’d like to have some kind of plan by July 1, to be quite frank,” she said.