Council vote could propel plan to redevelop Mohawk Theater

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NORTH ADAMS — With a set of proposed restrictions on the table, the City Council could move forward with plans to redevelop the historic Mohawk Theater.

A vote Tuesday could allow Mayor Thomas Bernard to issue a request for proposals on the property, which he has proposed selling to a private developer after more than two decades of city ownership.

But first, the council wanted to make sure that the theater, which opened in 1938, is protected — at least to some extent.

The council's community development committee reviewed the issue and suggested that before signing off on Bernard's proposed disposition order, which allows an RFP to be issued, the council set two restrictions.

First, the committee recommended that the theater's iconic marquee on Main Street be preserved. It also insisted that Bernard present each response to the RFP to the full City Council, regardless of whether the council has an actual vote on the winner.

Bernard first announced his intention to seek a private developer for the theater in his annual State of the City address in January.

But the plan required that the City Council adopt a disposition order declaring that the property no longer serves any municipal purpose.

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In February, the council balked, with members concerned that once they adopt the order, they would lose any control they have over the future of the theater. Under the RFP process, the council would only be required to sign off on the winning bidder if the offer came in below the assessed value of $446,400.

At its first round of meetings, the community development committee hatched a plan. Instead of signing off on the disposition order and then issuing the RFP, the committee suggested reversing the process. That way, the City Council could review the winning bid in full detail before adopting the disposition order.

The problem?

The reversed process might not be legal, the city's attorney advised.

So, back at square one, the committee met again this month to hammer out a set of proposed conditions on the disposition order. Although the possibilities were limitless, the committee ultimately settled on just two.

The disposition order is back on the City Council's agenda Tuesday for its regular 7:30 p.m. meeting. A vote is not required, though, and the council could choose to delay the matter further or send it back to committee for additional review.

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


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