What the city does with the recent proposal to redevelop the long-empty Mohawk Theater will be decided under incoming Mayor Jennifer Macksey.
With a development proposal on the table for the Mohawk Theater, we called for a thoughtful and unrushed process to assess the plan to reinvigorate a long-dormant downtown landmark. It seems the City Council agrees, and their vote to put off a sale decision until after a new mayoral administration gets its feet on the ground is a wise move.
The Mohawk looms large in North Adams’ hopes for revitalization. As such, any decision about its future deserves as many careful eyes as possible — including those of a new mayor who will soon be taking over City Hall’s corner office.
This is no shot at outgoing mayor Tom Bernard, whose administration has pursued a sale plan with the sole responder to the city’s most recent request for proposals. We applaud his administration for realizing the necessity to find a sustainable future for the Mohawk and proactively pursuing it. That immediacy must be balanced with care, though, which would not be furthered by rushing to forward a sale plan in this administration’s remaining few weeks. Mayor Bernard did not run for reelection, and Mayor-elect Jennifer Macksey is set to be inaugurated Jan. 1 after her win in November.
Veselko Buntic, the developer who submitted a proposal to redevelop the Mohawk Theater, recently submitted plans to North Adams for apartments on Eagle Street.
Further, we are not saying that the proposal on the table advocated by Mayor Bernard is unworthy of consideration. That consideration should be thorough, though, and that means letting the incoming mayor, whose leadership city voters just endorsed, weigh in as well. As a recent spat between Mayor Bernard and state Rep. John Barrett III unfortunately telegraphed, this important issue is vulnerable to the kind of factional politics too often seen in North Adams that incentivize our leaders to put jockeying with rivals over what is best for the city’s future.
We call on city officials to resist this impulse, especially on a matter as critical as the Mohawk’s future. That goes for Mayor Bernard, who appears to bristle at the notion of any counterpoint to his administration’s view of the sale plan, but it also goes for the incoming mayor as well. While we agree with Mayor-elect Macksey that it “makes no sense to make a decision of this magnitude in the last days of Mayor Bernard’s term,” we also hope that her administration will not reflexively reject the current proposal, either, and instead give it a fair and thorough look as the only one currently on the table.
Ms. Macksey has signaled a desire to give other potential developers more time, but it’s worth noting that the city has put out multiple rounds of RFPs for the Mohawk, and in the most recent cycle the current proposal was the sole submission.
That doesn’t mean it should automatically get the green light, but it does deserve objective attention. If the current plan is not up to snuff, then it will be up to the incoming administration to prioritize finding a better one.
Either way, more time and room for consideration is a healthy thing here. North Adams’ leaders should not squander it, and come together in search of the best way forward for the Mohawk Theater. The future of the city’s downtown depends on it.