Historic Brushwood Farm for sale in Lenox

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LENOX — It can be yours for $4.5 million.

Brushwood Farm, a 69-acre prime piece of real estate on Pittsfield Road, just north of the downtown village, is on the market for potential development as a mixed-use commercial and residential complex next to Courtyard by Marriott. It's roughly across from David Ward's Lenox Commons, a thriving mix of retail shops, a cafe, medical and other professional offices, and condominiums.

The Brushwood property — owned by the Hashim family and home to several businesses and four apartments — is part of the Lenox Gateway mixed-use overlay district that begins at East Dugway Road. The district extends northward to include Lenox Commons, Lenox Fit and the Arcadian Shop.

A 25-acre portion of the property is zoned for commercial development, said Land Use Director/Town Planner Gwen Miller, while 43 acres are in the residential district.

Brushwood Farm is marketed by the exclusive agent, The Shire Group for William Pitt Sotheby International Realty, as "tailor-made for a developer who wishes to build a complex comprising private homes or condominiums, a grocery or anchor store, and-or smaller shops, a restaurant and office space."

"It's a very high-profile site," Miller said. "We'll objectively review any application that comes in, as we do for all projects."

The state Department of Transportation has reported that an average of 27,000 vehicles a day, year-round, pass the 36 Pittsfield Road location, with a peak of 40,000 daily during the summer tourism season.

A developer would need a special permit and site-plan approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals, Miller noted. The plan review includes consideration of a project's effect on the aesthetics and character of the area.

A handful of prospective buyers have inspected the site since it went back on the market this summer, but there have been no offers so far, according to Leslie Chesloff, the listings agent for The Shire Group.

The listing price of $4.5 million reflects a $450,000 reduction since early July, Chesloff confirmed. The town assesses the value of the property as just under $2.8 million.

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It includes a historic house dating from 1792, as listed by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The Federal-style house, now in disrepair, was home to a restaurant, the Sweet Basil Grille, in the 1990s but has been vacant since then and has a hole in the roof.

"It's tough for old historic homes outside the Lenox historic district or an estate preservation area to be protected," Miller said. But she pointed out that a historic resource on a property makes a purchaser eligible for federal and state credits for preservation.

The Lenox Historical Commission has been working with Preservation Massachusetts, a statewide nonprofit agency, to have the Captain Oliver Root House listed as an endangered historical building to determine how to save and restore it. It's one of the very few surviving houses in Lenox dating from the late 1700s.

Root established the farmhouse and outbuildings as a residence, and the shop for his blacksmith business. He was among the town's early settlers, arriving from Southington, Conn., around 1778.

After five years, he sold it and after several private owners who altered and expanded portions of the Root building, Brushwood Farm was purchased by a Pittsfield dentist, Dr. George Hashim and his wife, June, in 1976 for $242,500 (nearly $1.1 million in today's dollars).

It was reported in The Eagle then that the property had been eyed for an enclosed shopping mall by the Pyramid Investors Management Corp. of Syracuse, N.Y., with J.C. Penney or Montgomery Ward as potential anchors. Pyramid eventually built the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough, which opened in 1988.

The Lenox site was then known as the Elizabeth Love Godwin estate, owned with her sister, Frances Godwin. They were great-granddaughters of 19th century poet, author and editor William Cullen Bryant, who lived in Cummington.

A Lenox town meeting in October 1984 denied the Hashims' request to rezone the property from residential to commercial to build townhouses, convert the farmhouse into an inn and add a shopping area, according to state Historical Commission archives.

The property — it was 76 acres before a 7-acre parcel was sold to the Toole family for $1,375,000 in late 2013 for their Marriott hotel project — has been on and off the market. In mid-2002, it was put on sale for $7.5 million but did not attract a buyer.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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