Adams reaches out anew for Greylock Glen developers


ADAMS — Proponents of a bid to jump-start a $53 million cultural and eco-tourism education and entertainment center alongside the Appalachian Trail and the state's highest peak — and largest public park — have a new deadline to focus on — Dec. 15.

That's when responses are now due to a "request for proposals" (RFP) released by the town of Adams for the first phase of the 1,063 acre Greylock Glen project, which abuts the 12,500 acre Mount Greylock State Reservation and sits just to the east of Mount Greylock's 3,491-foot summit.

The town's RFP document invites public or private developers for a 140-site campground that is proposed to feature rustic, word-burning cabins, yurts and platform "eco-shelters" alongside traditional campsites. An economic analysis predicts the campground operation could be netting $384,000 a year by 2023. The original response deadline was Sept. 29, but the town extended it after receiving no responses.

In a cover note, Jeffrey M. Snoonian, chairman of the Adams Select Board, terms the overall Greylock Glen project "one of the most significant" for the Greylock region.

It would be kicked off by the campsite development. Other components include an 11,000-square-foot publicly owned environmental education center and cross-country ski-touring center, a private, $20.5 million, 170-room lodge and conference center and a 2,500-seat performing arts amphitheater.

A market analysis study submitted to the town July 5 by C.E. Johnson Consulting of Chicago, a real estate and hospitality consulting firm, terms the overall project "economically feasible" with the potential to be what it calls a "game changer" for the town that has a high level of community support. It says "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling's declaration of Mount Greylock as the locus of a fictional North American witchcraft school will have a "positive impact" on the Glen proposal.

The consultants said the site, an expanse of sloping forests and human-cleared, rolling open spaces, is an "outstanding location" near cultural amenities and where market need for additional lodging facilities is projected. It also says the plan will appeal to younger, active visitors.

The latest proposal is the result of a multiyear design collaboration with four nonprofits — the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

There are at least 20 competitive public and private campgrounds within 30 miles — many of which are near capacity in summer months, an economic consultant hired by the town found. But the consultant, Rachel J. Roginsky of Boston-based Pinnacle Advisory Group, wrote March 8 that the offerings at Greylock Glen will be "unique and more upscale . . . a high-end product which would appeal to the most discerning campers who expect a high level of amenities."

The RFP says the town "has determined that there is a strong demand for alternatives such as cabins, yurts and eco-shelters in the region." It proposes the campsites would allow small pull-in trailers, but no RVs or utility hookups.

It goes to significant lengths to document assistance to potential developers, suggesting the town and the state "may be able to assist with financing for the project" through tax-exempt bonds for nonprofits, loans and loan participations. It also offers design and construction help from the town.

It suggests the Berkshire Visitors Bureau could help with marketing support and advertising and the students of McCann Technical High School in North Adams might learn carpentry and other skills by helping build some of the campground facilities.

And it describes two "shovel-ready" sites for the campground development on a total of about 23 acres, in which town water, sewer and utilities are already in place and paid for, along with upgraded access roads.

A successful bidder, if one emerges after Dec. 15, could negotiate a lease of up to 25 years on the campground acreage and would have up to 18 months from signing a contract to begin operations.

The consultant's report estimates the campground could generate between $248,000 and $384,000 per year in net income on revenues rising from $1 million to $1.4 million between 2019 and 2023.

It says planning and state and local permitting, for the project are essentially complete. The first phase of utilities and road improvement is complete, with this site readiness substantially improving the level of project certainty for private developer partners as it minimizes the risk of delays and added costs.

It also cites proposed projects in analyzing the potential for Greylock Glen campground.

There are several new proposed cultural amenities planned for the Adams area including a contemporary art museum, an "extreme" model train and architecture museum, and the redevelopment of Greylock Mill.

"Overall the proposed project is of a scale and quality that will change the image of Adams and significantly enhance the inventory of recreational amenities throughout the northern Berkshires area," the consultants wrote. "The balance between environmental protection and economic growth that is expected by the project will create an invaluable amenity for the local and regional markets."


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