Construction wrapping up on new UNO Park in North Adams

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NORTH ADAMS — Better brush up on your bocce.

Work on the new UNO Park is nearing completion, bringing a new cultural amenity to the UNO (United Neighborhood Organization) area of the city and expanding the reach of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art deeper into its neighborhood.

The creation of the new park at River and Marshall streets will be celebrated with a ribbon-cutting hosted by the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, which oversees the adjacent UNO Center, at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Featuring a half basketball court and bocce court, the new park will be home to a variety of community events.

"What we anticipate is a lot of collaborations with [Mass] MoCA, a lot of outdoor events," said Glenda Matos-Carter, coordinator of the Northern Berkshire Neighbors Program.

Since the installation of the half-court for basketball this year, it has seen steady use from the community. There has also been much anticipation surrounding the bocce court.

"There's been such a hype about it now," Matos-Carter said.

The park's construction was overseen and funded by Mass MoCA, which had initially hoped to see the work completed last summer.

"There's a lot of building going on in town, so everyone was a little up to their necks," said Larry Smallwood, deputy director at Mass MoCA. "The building boom in North Adams put us a little behind schedule."

The project was paid for through independent fundraising at Mass MoCA.

"The goal was really to embrace the community outside the [museum] gate," Smallwood said.

The two parcels that make up UNO Park are nestled on the northwest and northeast corners of Houghton and River streets.

Work is substantially complete on the eastern half of the park, which includes basketball, bocce, a lawn and plantings. Work in the western half is beginning to wind down and will finish by Saturday.

The western half of the park is adjacent to the city-owned Bracewell Park on Houghton Street. It features elevated seating areas and plantings bifurcated by a diagonal gravel pathway.

"We wanted to create connectivity," Smallwood said. "In the North Adams master plan, broken links was a big theme. The way all of this lines up, now we have a line that goes from this corner to Bracewell Park."

The gravel pathway also offers space to park food trucks. A tiered grass area provides seating, complemented by hammocks.

Using that seating area, the intention is to provide film viewings on an outdoor screen.

Formerly, the properties at 163 and 177 River St. were a Goodyear Auto Service Center and the River Street Package Store, respectively. Both were purchased by Porches Inn Owner John "Jack" Wadsworth, operating as Berkshire Hills Development Corp.

The buildings on both parcels were subsequently torn down, while the adjacent former Homestead Tavern at 157 River St. — it also was purchased by Wadsworth — was renovated and converted into the UNO Center.

"The center has served as kind of like a meeting place and a second home for some of the residents in the UNO neighborhood," Matos-Carter said. "We've had a lot of private rentals for birthday parties, baby showers, different organizations and clubs to have a meeting space if they didn't have one."

In December 2016, Berkshire Hills Development Corp. sold the former package store and automotive center properties to the Mass MoCA Foundation for $96,000, according to the Northern Berkshire Registry of Deeds.

The United Neighborhood Organization, which is under the umbrella of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, will schedule programming at the park and offers lawn games to rent out for use in the park.

The design for the park was gifted to the community by New York City-based Shop Architects.

"There's a lot of really good architecture here in a small, compact area," Smallwood said.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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