(Above: Architect/entrepreneur Ralph Brill)
By Bill Densmore
(see Disclosure, bottom of post)
ADAMS, Mass. -- The town is evaluating a lone proposal received by last week's deadline for the first-phase development of the Greylock Glen.
North Adams artist, architect and "green-industry" entrepreneur Ralph Brill submitted a proposal by the town's Dec. 15 deadline and Adams Community Development Director Donna Cesan says the proposal will be "carefully reviewed." She said selectmen would probably be involved and that it is likely there will be meetings with Brill to understand his proposal. Ceasan declined for the moment to make the proposal public. Cesan also says the town hopes this week to issue a Request for Proposals for Phase Two of the Greylock Glen -- a public-private education center. The Massachusetts Audubon Society has express interest in that phase.
BACKGROUND: Opportunity to seed eco-tourism / the Glen RFP
Brill, in turn, said he would respect the town's desire not to make his proposal public at the moment. He said he will only proceed if the town wants to participate in a broad partnership with the aim of turning the town's economy in a new direction.
"I"m talking about economic development and turning the town around," said Brill. "It is not going to happen on the back of a napkin. But in the end the town would have something like MassMoCA, and that is the risk -- and the rewards."
He discussed his ideas generally, saying they may not be exactly what the town was seeking, which he said was basically a private operator for a two-plot seasonal campground on the Glen parcel. Instead, Brill said his proposal includes the following features:
- Creation of one camp area consisting of "Hobbit-style" sleeping huts, and a second camp area consisting of rustic cabins, both able to be occupied nearly year round. He is thinking of ways to theme the camping area to both J.K. Rowling's designation of Mount Greylock as a fictional headquarters of North American witchcraft, as well as to be compatible with the interests of hiking, mountain biking and art enthusiasts.
- Use of a substantial of the vacant Adams Memorial Middle School building, particularly its large gymnasium, for hostel-style lodging and as a training and recreational facility for virtual-reality technology, and to support "geo-caching" games on the Greylock Glen parcel.
- Contracting with property owners along Park Street in Adams for a series of hiking- and bicycling-themed businesses that would support the interests of travelers to the Greylock Glen, and also highlight Adams native Susan B. Anthony's record as a major promoting of women riding bicycles.
- An education component, support a "Forest Kindergarden" school similar to hundreds operating in Scandinavia and northern Europe, as well as in Saratoga Springs, N.Y, The school would use the Glen as a learning environment for young children -- a feature that he thinks might appeal to the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which is interested in Phase 2 of the Glen project -- an education center.
Brill operates an eclectic art gallery in a North Adams Eclipse Mill loft. As Ralph Brill Associates, he has been involved in a major solar-electric power cooperative in Adams and is a supporter of industrial hemp. An architect by training, he was a developer in a Colorado ski resort town. He is know for writing detailed, fact-laden, opinionated and sometimes critical emails on a wide variety of regional topics, including MassMoCA.
DISCLOSURE: The author of this post accompanied Mr Brill to a discussion with Adams Town Planner Ceasan in November after Brill reacted to an October blog post about the Glen opportunity, and also walked the Greylock Glen property with Brill, land planner Harry Dodson and mountain-biking enthusiast Heather Linscott. The author has no involvement or economic interest in Brill's proposal or Brill's businesses.