Fraught story ends with purchase of Great Barrington firehouse by day-trading entrepreneur
GREAT BARRINGTON — The historic and ailing former town firehouse on Castle Street was bought this month by the owner of a day trading education firm that maintains one of its two national offices in a storefront in a nearby alley.
The 122-year-old building, which backs up on Railroad Street's alleyways, was sold Jan. 13 to Castle Street Firehouse LLC, the principal of which is Ross Cameron, founder and CEO of Warrior Trading.
In 2018, the company had opened a Great Barrington office around the corner, in the new 47 Railroad St. mixed retail and apartment complex. The company's other office is located in Sacramento, Calif.
Cameron could not be reached for comment. Last summer, he had expressed interest in purchasing it from a limited liability corporation partnership that never developed it, but wasn't sure what he would do with the building other than restore it.
"I'm definitely not interested in tearing it down," he told The Eagle in August.
At the time, he also had emphasized that his interest was not on behalf of his company, but was personal.
The $423,000 sale marks relief for a town that, for nearly a decade, watched the facade and its bricks continue to crumble and sometimes fall after the building was vacated in 2010 for the new fire station on State Road.
Inside, asbestos and lead had become a danger, and the developer appeared to renege on his 2014 agreement with the town to rehabilitate the property after purchasing it from the municipality for $50,000 that same year. It was assessed last year for $288,100.
Officials at Town Hall, which is next door, had placed favorable conditions on the sale to Thomas Borshoff and his 20 Castle LLC partnership with James Mercer and Ed McCormick. This included temporary reductions in assessments to limit property tax charges, and a stipulation that $80,000 of the estimated $270,000 in asbestos- and lead-abatement costs would be paid by the limited liability corporation.
Instead, the town found itself renting, at $2,500 a month, the building for storage of town equipment, and for its Building Inspector and Health Department offices.
At some point, 20 Castle installed new furnaces and built the retaining wall to the west. But, the building grew unsafe, and the offices moved back to Town Hall last year.
Frustration mounted over this and Borshoff's lack of communication with the town about his plans, which initially were to invest about $4 million to create a culinary school and cafe.
To smooth a potential future sale, in August, Kathleen McCormick, attorney for 20 Castle, asked the Select Board for clarity to ensure that the same remediation agreement with the town would remain with any future owner. The board agreed.
Board Chairman Stephen Bannon on Friday expressed relief about the sale and said that all town equipment still in storage will be removed by Jan. 31.
Heather Bellow can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.
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