Our Opinion: City vision needed for Mohawk Theater
After 25 years of frustrating on-again, off-again efforts to restore the Mohawk Theater to past glory it is understandable that Mayor Thomas Bernard would want to try something bold to shake up the picture. But the city must be careful not to surrender control of the iconic theater in the process.
The mayor tonight will ask the City Council to declare that the building no longer serves a municipal purpose. This would free the mayor to submit a request for proposals (RFPs) and he hopes take advantage of interest in downtown by the private sector. Ideally, the city will end up with a Mohawk that contributes to the tax rolls and brings people downtown.
This contrasts somewhat with the approach that Pittsfield took in its creation of the Beacon Theater on North Street. In seeking a jolt for downtown, the administration of Mayor James Ruberto determined that a new downtown theater was needed and began an initiative that resulted in a successful public-private partnership. Under Mayor Bernard's proposal, the developer would take the initiative beyond the mayor's selection of a winning RFP. And while the Pittsfield City Council had a voice in the Beacon project, Mayor Bernard's request of the City Council tonight would largely exclude the City Council from the process, unless the winning bid comes in at a price less than the building's assessed value of $446,400..
The city has invested millions of dollars in state and federal grant money to the preservation and renovation of the iconic theater. The city deserves the benefits of those funds and it should maintain a degree of authority over the future of the Mohawk. Should the mayor's proposal go forward, we hope it will allow for the kind of public-private partnership that takes advantage of renewed interest in the city by developers while assuring the redevelopment of the Mohawk contributes to a city vision of a downtown renaissance.
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