North Adams Planning Board: 'parking relief' needed for ex-church building eatery plan

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NORTH ADAMS — Before the former Our Lady of Incarnation Church can be transformed into a restaurant, developers will need to come up with a plan for parking.

The Planning Board on Monday delayed a vote on the proposal for Loom, a proposed restaurant tied to the Tourists hotel, because it did not adequately account for customer and employee parking.

As submitted, the proposal did not provide for anything other than on-street parking — which would require approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"There's got to be some kind of parking relief as part of your plan," Planning Board Chairman Michael Leary told the developers.

The restaurant is an offshoot of Tourists, a hotel that began as a modest renovation of the former Redwood Motel on State Road and has grown into a 48-room luxury lodge and transformation of more than 50 acres of underused property along the Hoosic River. Tourists opened this summer.

The restaurant will seat about 66 to 70 customers and hopes to become a "significant culinary destination." "We really hope that we get to do something special here," said partner and chef Courtney Burns.

Since being deconsecrated as a church more than a decade ago, the Massachusetts Avenue building has been used by a number of businesses. But Leary suggested that a restaurant will bring more traffic to the area than any of those previous uses.

"If I lived there, I would think parking is a pretty big issue," Leary said.

There is currently on-street parking near the restaurant, and Partner Eric Kerns told the board that the restaurant has the ability to use parking at a former city ballfield behind the property.

"We have an option to be flexible and grow as needed," Kerns said.

The former city park and ballfield was purchased by Tourists from the city in 2017.

"We're working on an overflow, secondary parking on the lot as part of the farm," Kerns said.

But while it is under the same umbrella as Tourists, the farm and parking property is technically owned by a different LLC than the restaurant and a completely separate parcel — which means the parking would require approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The board insisted on a specific plan.

"There's no specifics," Leary said. "If you were saying today `we're going to have 25 spaces in back and here's where they're going to be and here's where they are in the plan,' that's easier for this plan to look at."

Kerns said the owners have met with several neighbors and understands the concerns about parking.

"We want to make sure that we're being good neighbors and meeting those needs."

The board asked the restaurant to submit a detailed parking plan to see if it complies with city regulations.

Parking was the only major issue the Planning Board took with the proposal.

The plans include maximizing the southward view for restaurant patrons.

"You can't see any built environment to the south, basically between you and Mount Williams, so it's this incredible view," Kerns said. "You could be pretty much in the middle of nowhere."

The building also will lose its steeple, which Kerns said is not original to the building and is a midcentury addition.

"Being that the building isn't a church, it's the one thing we thought we'd like to remove," Kerns said.

Although the restaurant's customer base will include hotel patrons, Burns, a James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef who moved to the Berkshires last year to launch the new restaurant, said it's "something for all of us to enjoy."

"Ultimately, we want to be a place that the community comes to," Burns said.

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


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