Crowne Plaza owner owes Pittsfield $253,900 in taxes

Auction planned for Feb. 22


PITTSFIELD — The owner of the Crowne Plaza hotel owes the city of Pittsfield more than a quarter of a million dollars in tax revenue for the current fiscal year, according to the city tax collector's office.

As of Wednesday, Shireberk Realty Trust and Shireberk Corp. Trust owed the city a combined $253,900 in property and utility taxes for fiscal 2017, which began July 1. Shirebrook has yet to pay any property or utility taxes through the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, which runs through March 1.

Santander Bank of Boston last month began foreclosure proceedings on the $16.5 million mortgage for the 179-room hotel on 1 West St. that is held jointly by Shireberk and the Berkshire Common Corp.

The 14-story full-service hotel includes two restaurants, a ballroom, an indoor pool, a four-level, 325-space parking garage that is in need of repair, and 12,000 square feet of meeting and function space.

If the mortgage issues are not resolved, the hotel will be sold at public auction at 11 a.m. Feb. 22 at 1 West St. The hotel has been franchised to Crowne Plaza, which is a brand of the InterContinental Hotels Group, since 1997.

The Berkshire Common complex also includes an adjacent building with three levels of office suites that is located at 2 South St., but that portion of the property is not part of the auction, according to bid documents prepared by Sullivan & Sullivan Auctioneers of Sandwich, which specializes in foreclosure and personal property auctions.

The three levels of office suites are owned by a different entity, Bercom LLC, which is managed by the late Eugene Weiss of Schenectady, N.Y., who is also listed as the president of both Shireberk and the Berkshire Common Corp., in records filed with the state. Bercom currently owes the city $18,775 in property tax revenue, having yet to pay taxes for the second quarter of the current fiscal year, according to records on file at City Hall.

City Treasurer Matthew M. Kerwood said the hotel's owners have been slow in meeting their tax obligations to the city in the past, but have always paid them.

"They are only delinquent for fiscal 2017," Kerwood said. "For all the prior fiscal years they are paid in full."

Kerwood said the city generally waits at least two years to place delinquent properties in tax title, meaning a lien is placed on the property to guarantee that the city will receive payment at some point. If the hotel's mortgage is sold, the purchaser would be responsible for any outstanding tax obligations to the city, he said.

"The payment of those taxes would have to be worked out with the parties involved in that transaction," Kerwood said.

Lauri Klefos, the chief marketing officer for 1Berkshire, the county's leading economic development agency, said the Crowne Plaza plays a vital role in the fabric of the community.

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"I think the Crowne is so important to Pittsfield," she said. "I always say to people that a big hotel like that is so important to an urban center because it's more than a hotel; it's a community use. We use it for meeting and break-out sessions all the times. ... Pittsfield needs a hotel like that,"

A member of a law firm whose offices have been located at 2 South St. for 38 years said the infrastructure of the entire hotel-office complex, particularly the parking garage, needs to be repaired. The complex was constructed in 1970.

"There are three elevators in the building and one has been out for six years," said attorney Emil George. "That says everything."

"It's in terrible shape," said a merchant who owns a small business on South Street. "Go walk through the garage."

George believes the issues involving the complex are not about the operation of the hotel, which he refers to as a "very well-run operation."

"I see this as being about debt and the amount of money that needs to be put into it," he said.

Berkshire Common Corp. has been involved in nine civil actions and four small claims actions in Central Berkshire District Court in Pittsfield since 2004, according to court records. But only one of those actions has been filed within the last 10 years, and Berkshire Common Corp. is listed as the plaintiff.

Santander Bank has declined to comment on why it has initiated foreclosure proceedings against Shireberk and the Berkshire Common Corp. Weiss died in 2014. His son, Andrew, currently oversees those operations.

Both Andrew Weiss, who works in North Palm Beach, Fla, and a business associate, Jim Huff, are both traveling and did not return emails messages seeking comment.

Berkshire Common and Shireberk both had their legal status to operate as corporations in Massachusetts taken away by the state on June 30 for failing to file their annual reports, according to Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office. The state took similar action against Bercom on June 30, 2015, according to state records. All three of those entities have not filed annual reports with the state since 2012.

Although the three entities cannot legally operate as corporations in Massachusetts, they can still conduct normal business functions, McNiff said.

Reach Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at 413 496-6224.


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