Mixed development for Blackinton Mill

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NORTH ADAMS -- The new owners of the historic Blackinton Mill on Massachusetts Avenue hope to breathe life into the vacant former cotton mill with a mix of commercial, residential and retail enterprises -- and a little help from the city.

Brothers Lawrence and Marc Magid, real estate developers from Long Island, N.Y., unveiled conceptual plans and potential marketing themes for the building during a news conference with Mayor Richard J. Alcombright on Thursday afternoon.

Early plans include luxury apartments on the third floor of the 70,000-square-foot mill, with mixed commercial, office, storage, artist space and retail on the lower two floors, along with the potential for a restaurant in the mill's former boiler house.

"It's a work in progress," Marc Magid said. "We have a lot of ideas and plans for the building, but we have certain goals. We're often criticized for getting too involved with our projects and paying attention to the small details. We believe in doing one thing at a time. The development of this property needs to be successful. To do that, we need to be sensitive to the community's needs and be dedicated to the details. In an economy like this one, we need to work slow and meticulous." Initial work on the building hinges on the clean-up of soil and water contaminants from the adjacent city-owned lot, site of the former Berkshire Tannery.

"One of the major problems with this project over the years has been the tannery clean-up," Alcombright said. "We're happy to announce that, thanks to the efforts of the city's grant writer Laura [Cece] Woods, the city has received a $200,000 remediation grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site. We should note that the city would have to clean up the tannery site regardless of this." Following the clean-up, the tannery site will become green space and parking space at the front of the mill, which will have its entrance relocated to Ashton Avenue. Alcombright said details of whether the city would sell the tannery land to the Magids or would grant an easement have yet to be worked out.

"The city couldn't be happier to see this building brought back to life, especially when you look at all the possibilities," the mayor said. "I grew up 200 yards from this mill and am pleased to see this happen for the Blackinton neighbors. When I met with Marc and Larry late last year, the first thing they asked me was what the community needed. That stuck with me." Previous plans for the mill, which was purchased by real estate developer Michael Meehan in 1988 for $135,000, have included artist's lofts and high-end condominiums, but they never came to fruition.

The Magids said they became interested in the property in 2009, after Marc Magid and his wife, Amy, saw it during a trip to the area last summer, during which the couple's son was attending a football clinic at Williams College.

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Marc and Larry Magid, doing business as Magid Mill LLC, purchased the building from Meehan, doing business as Carraroe Industries Inc. for $225,000 on Jan. 14, according to documents at the Northern Berkshire Registry of Deeds. Marc Magid and his wife have also purchased land for a second home in Williamstown.

Larry Magid said he and his brother have scrapped the plans for condominiums because they would require a major capital investment.

"You would have to sell the condos for extremely high prices," he said. "We believe the mixed-use concept works because you have both high and low rents." He said he believes that kind of investment would be solid despite the ongoing recession.

"Our view has always been optimistic. Sometimes the worst of times is the right time to get involved because things are about to get better," Larry Magid said. "Who's to say what is right or wrong? Look at New York City. In 1976, the city was going broke. They were basically giving away buildings with large abatements and incentives. People were angry. Now, 80 percent of the city's tax base is from real estate." Marc Magid said one of the marketing plans for the building involves creating incubator space for fledgling businesses.

"We'll have incentives, such as having the space rent-free for a certain amount of time to allow them to invest in the space and their business," he said. "At the end of the set time period, those businesses will be a vital part of the community and able to afford to pay rent." City Councilor Gailanne Cariddi, who attended the news conference along with Councilors Lisa Blackmer and David Bond and several Blackinton area neighbors, championed the mixed-use idea.

"I fully believe in the multiple-tenant concept," Cariddi said. "I think it will be great for the whole area." Richard Moon, who heads the Blackinton Union neighborhood group, said the plans have already created "quite a buzz." "You'll probably hear a lot from the neighbors, who want to know what is going to happen to our mill," he told the Magids. "We'd love to have you attend some of our meetings." Larry Magid said the pair would be happy to hear from the neighbors, but he cautioned that things would not be moving very fast.

"The clean-up of the land is going to take six to eight months," he said. "You won't be seeing any action, but we don't want people to think we've gone away." Several residents asked about the possible inclusion of the proposed Mohawk Bicycle and Pedestrian Path on a portion of the mill's nearly 2 acres and the planned green space.

"It's long been a dream of the families in my neighborhood, many who have young children, to have a park or playground on the tannery land," Spencer Moser said. "Perhaps that could be included in the plans." The property is being managed by Moresi & Associates, with sales and leasing options listed by Alan Marden of Alton and Westall in Williamstown, who is also a city councilor. Conceptual and design plans are being overseen by David Westall of Westall Architects of Williamstown, which has handled design plans at the mill in the past.


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