North Adams planners OK plan for new music, comedy venue for 55 Union St.

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NORTH ADAMS — Get ready to rock out or laugh out loud.

After winning the Planning Board's approval Monday, a new music and comedy venue on Union Street is clear to open later this year.

The music venue, dubbed HiLo, is slated to open in the former Museum of Dog building at 55 Union St. Before its brief iteration as a museum, the building was operated as the Crystal Hardhat Saloon.

With a capacity of nearly 300 people, the venue's developers envision it booking a mixture of local and touring acts with a show nearly every night of the week.

"We look to attract top-quality regional touring acts, as well as incubating the burgeoning local music scene, host comedy nights, also attracting top regional talent, as well as showcases for New York-based comics," said Brian Miksic, a managing partner at Very Good Property Development LLC. Miksic is a member of the Planning Board but recused himself on this matter.

The building was purchased by last year Very Good Property, which plans to open this fall after a number of exterior and interior upgrades this summer. The company also will look to win approval for a license from the city to sell beer, wine and liquor at the site.

The plans call for a patchwork of parking. Though the building itself comes with fewer than 10 parking spots, Very Good Property has struck deals with neighboring property owners and will use existing street parking for a total of about 150 spaces, all within a five-minute walk or less.

The venue's name calls back to the building's former operator, Quinn's Paint and Wallpaper, which sold a paint and varnish brand called HiLo.

"It was important to me that [the name] had something to do with the history of the city or the history of the building," Miksic said, showing the Planning Board a decades-old photograph of a Quinn's truck with the HiLo logo parked in front of the building.

Joad Bowman, who opened Thistle & Mirth in Pittsfield in 2012, has signed on as the venue's general manager.

Other businesses

The Planning Board also approved a full slate of other new businesses.

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Michael and Douglas Schiazza won approval to operate a small bed and breakfast inside the barn adjacent to their home at 253 Kemp Ave., a hillside property perched with panoramic views above the Hoosac Valley.

The barn will be converted into a three-unit B&B with a small common area shared among them.

The Tourists hotel, after Monday's approval from the board, will open an event space in the former Our Lady of the Incarnation Church on Massachusetts Avenue.

"We get requests for on a regular basis [from] people wanting to rent out the entire hotel and hold special events — weddings and corporate retreats," said Eric Kerns, the hotel's project manager. "We need an interior space where people can gather and have a dinner for 80 to 100 people, having a wedding reception, having a corporate breakout meeting, presentations — things of that nature."

In the past, the board has expressed concern with the availability of parking at the former church site, which is mostly limited to the street-side in front of the property.

Tourists sought to preemptively assuage those concerns by securing permanent easements with PanAm Railways under a freight railway that separates the hotel on State Road and the former church on Massachusetts Avenue.

"We're pretty doggone excited about that," Kerns said, noting that the easements enable complete pedestrian circulation on the Tourists property.

The building will undergo a number of changes, including new windows that improve the southward view. Given that the building is no longer an active church, the developer will remove its small steeple. The hotel also will move its catering kitchen from the Houghton Mansion on Church Street into the former church's first floor.

In progress at another West End development, Greylock Works got the green light to add a new wrinkle to its multifaceted business plan.

The developers behind Greylock Works will portion off 5,700 square feet of the historic mill's weave shed — the section of the complex with a sawtooth roof — for a collaborative workspace and studios.

And on Roberts Drive, developer David Moresi brought yet another handful of new businesses to his Norad Mill.

The companies approved Monday to set up shop in the mill include a clothing store, a candy company and an art studio.

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


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