Unloading city-owned property proves a slog for North Adams

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NORTH ADAMS — The city has been eager to sell off a number of properties, ranging from a former elementary school to its defunct salt shed.

Buyers? Decidedly less motivated.

With the much-anticipated sale and redevelopment of the Windsor Mill off the table and a deal on the salt shed that seems likely to fall through, Mayor Thomas Bernard remains committed to getting a number of city-owned properties back on the tax rolls.

But looking forward, he plans to tweak the approach, pledging to push buyers to close on the deal sooner — reducing the odds that a deal falls through.

"It's being able to not just make these deals, but move them to close faster so that we're getting these things off the city's hands and getting them onto the tax rolls and into the buyer's hands faster," he said.

Bernard provided the Finance Committee with an update this week on the marketing efforts:

Salt Shed

Tiny house builder B&B Micro Manufacturing submitted a $75,000 winning bid on the city's former salt shed on Ashland Street last year, proposing that it would use the building as a space to build platforms that would transport its tiny homes.

But since then, the company — currently operating out of the Windsor Mill on Union Street — has landed a deal on a new space on Howland Avenue in Adams.

"It's a really good deal for them, [but] I really wish that they were staying in North Adams," Bernard said.

Bernard expects the company to submit official notice that it will not close on the salt shed property in the coming weeks.

"They anticipate that they may not go forward with the salt shed, but they haven't given us formal notification of that," Bernard said. "If they do, we will immediately go back out with another [request for proposals] on that property."

The tiny house builder's winning bid was actually the second time the city had solicited offers on the salt shed property.

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Notre Dame

A proposal to renovate the former Notre Dame Church on East Main Street remains on the table.

The Square Office, a North Adams-based developer comprised of Dan Wallis and Emily Daunis, earned rights to the historic property — which includes a church and former school building — last year with a $253,000 bid.

The developer's proposal called for the property to be transformed into a 64-room hotel with a variety of amenities.

"Our goal is to close as soon as possible, but we're just moving through the necessary due diligence," Daunis told The Eagle on Thursday.

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The developer was granted an extension to close on the property until the end of the year.

"We had hoped to have it in the first quarter of [fiscal 2020], but I agreed to that in the hope that they're going to move forward," Bernard said. "It's not even fair to call it an extension — we're [within] the terms of the purchase and sale."

City yard

Cumberland Farms remains interested in purchasing the former Department of Public Works headquarters on Ashland Street, but has again delayed closing on the deal as it reexamines the footprint needed for a new store there.

The new deadline to close is June 30, Bernard said.

"They're projecting a slightly smaller footprint for the store," Bernard said.

The company submitted the winning $575,000 bid on the property, which is no longer needed for municipal use after the city moved its public services departments into a new headquarters on Hodges Cross Road.

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After embarking on environmental review, cleanup costs were pegged at $263,000. Per the terms of the purchase and sale agreement, the city agreed to shoulder half of the cost of cleanup, estimated $131,500, which would be deducted from the city's proceeds from the sale.

Windsor Mill

Environmental issues were also present at the site of the Windsor Mill, and ultimately derailed an effort to sell it.

Bernard said the city will pause and consider its next steps with the property, which had been the subject of a proposal by architect Simeon Bruner that would have seen it substantially renovated and transformed into a hub of arts-related businesses and artist residences.

The city plans to connect with MassDevelopment, the state's economic development agency, for consultation on how to move forward with the property, which the city leases out to a number of commercial tenants.

But issues were raised in an environmental review of the property.

"We're applying 2017 standards to environmental practices of 150 years ago, and that's what we should be doing, but we're cleaning up in some cases messes that were made a long time ago," Bernard said.

Sullivan School

Some properties, meanwhile, just can't seem to generate interest.

Sullivan School, on Kemp Avenue, was replaced by the renovated Colegrove Park Elementary School, and now sits vacant. It has failed to generate substantial interest.

Bernard expects the property to be put back out to bid along with the salt shed, assuming B&B drops its plans for the property.

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


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