. . . . . . . News, events, opinions and ideas for the Greylock region. Host: Bill Densmore. (email) Click HERE for documents, texts and additional information. The views here are those of Bill Densmore. This is not a professional journalism service.
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Posted by Bill Densmore
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Operators of a marijuana "store" opening in the Colonial Shopping Center in August took questions, some of them politely skeptical, at a public meeting attended by about 22 people on Saturday morning (Sept. 24) at the Williams Inn. The initial opening will serve recreational customers, with medically certified users coming later.
ADAMS, Mass. -- Entrepreneur Ralph Brill unveil details of his proposal for a bicycle-and-virtual reality reinvention of Adams' business district -- and a "Hobbit-inspired" Greylock Glen -- in a public discussion atop Mount Greylock.
Brill's April 6 talk was entitled: "What do Hobbits, Ilvermorny and Bicycle Shops Have in Common in the New Adams." Brill's proposal is pending before town boards and selectmen in Adams and he revealed some details in December. Brill's key argument is that the town needs to embrace the use of the former Adams Memorial Middle School as a hostel and new-media education center in conjunction with the Glen and with bicycle-oriented eco-tourism. He has even suggested the town be renamed, "New Adams" as a way of emphasizing its new focus and image.
Video of the roughly one-hour talk, broken into three segments can be viewed at these YouTube URLs:
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Take a look in the back of U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Dave Montgomery's delivery truck and you see a lot of boxes with one logo -- Amazon.
Parked on is route at Westlawn Cemetery on Tuesday, Montgomery reflected on what the back of the truck might have looked like 11 years ago when he began deliverying mail. "Pretty empty," he said. But now, it is chockfull of Amazon deliveries. And buried further inside -- some United Parcel Service boxes, too.
Both the world's biggest online retailer and the largest parcel delivery service now have contracts with the postal service for delivery.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- It makes more sense to build a hotel in South Williamstown at Waubeeka Golf Links than on the end of Spring Street, and a hotel needs to be about 100 rooms or larger to be economically viable, says Carl J. Faulkner, the former longtime owner-operator of the Williams Inn.
"In Williamstown, the best location for a new inn is the present site of the Williams Inn, even if the inn needs to be closed for about two years in order to accomplish this," Faulkner said in a interview and written comments to GreylockNews.com. "Otherwise, the Waubeeka site would be the next-best site. Spring Street/Latham Street, I feel is less desirable. It's location, location, location."
The problem with a Spring Street site proposed by Williams College for a "new" 60-room Williams Inn is that it is not on a major route traveled by the tourists who are the main source of economic viability for any non-resort hotel, said Faulkner. Faulkner noted that the intersections of U.S. Route 7 and state Route 43 at South Williamstown was once the location of the Idlewild Inn. While not familiar with developer Michael Deep's proposals for a "New England-style country inn" resort at Waubeeka, Faulkner expressed doubt any tourist- and event-venue hotel could be viable with less than about 100 rooms.
"To me, with 60 rooms, you can't make money," he said. "The college is proposing a building that is too small -- 60 rooms will not satisfy the needs," said Faulkner. "We found that in order to get conventions you need at least 100 rooms. Also, I think the college is thinking they are the sole generator of rooms. They are not. They are a substantial generator of rooms, but hopefully most the rooms will come from tourists driving through the area."
If Williams builds only 60 rooms, Faulkner believes the facility will be a perpetual money loser, subsidized by Williams. "In my opinion, 100-120 rooms is the most profitable size for an inn," said Faulkner. "Above that size you need more staff and under that size you still need the same staff that a 100-room inn would need. Also, in order to attract regional conferences, reunions, antique-auto groups and other conventions, you need over 100 rooms."
In a "Q&A on the Williams Inn Project" release last week by Williams, spokesman James Kolesar asserts that putting a hotel at the intersection of two major roads -- as would be the case at Waubeeka or at the current Williams Inn site -- may have been a good place "before the invention of the Internet." However, Kolesar wrote:"Few travelers any more head out without knowing where they intend to stay."
Faulkner commented during an interview last week with GreylockNews.com, which sought figures from him about tax payments by the Williams Inn. He co-owned the Williams Inn with his wife, Marilyn, for more than 35 years, ground leasing six acres of land from Williams. Faulkner says he supports Williams College's effort to build a new Williams Inn, but not at a Spring Street location.
"I'm in favor of a New Inn, he said. I'm just not in favor of Spring Street . . . personally, I think the Waubeeka site is a better site for a hotel than where the college wants to build," said Faulkner. "It is a more traveled road. There is precedent for it, where the Idlewild was and that was in the area of 100 to 120 rooms. The college-chosen site is a poor one." In the interview, Faulkner made the following points:
No matter which location, Faulkner cautioned about hotel over building in Berkshire County. He said three new inns are open or under construction this year in Lenox or Pittsfield, ad a time when hundreds of SABIC workers in Pittsfield are losing jobs or relocating to Texas. Two new inns -- the Redwood and the Greylock Mill -- are in building or planning stages in North Adams.
An inn at the end of Spring Street can be expected to generate "a minimum of several tractor-trailer trucks weekdays making deliveries." In addition, multiple intercity buses and Berkshire Regional Transit Authority buses stop daily at The Williams Inn, Faulkner said. These buses will have to either find another stop or negotiate the bottom of Spring Street.
The mix of retail on Spring Street -- many restaurants and few "browsable shops" was of diminishing interest to Williams Inn lodgers and the college may be exacerbating that by adding public dining at The Log and in a proposed new bookstore building. The short walk to Spring Street from the Williams Inn was not a deterent, Faulkner said.
Faulkner discounted Kolesar's assertion that the current Williams Inn building is not "very energy inefficient". To the contrary, Faulkner said. Five or six years ago, it received the government's best Energy Star efficiency rating in New England he said. Also, the Inn's $3-million, 24-room addition completed in 2001 was completed to the then-latest energy standards, he said. In 2012, Yankee Magazine named the hotel "New England inn of the year.
Speculating about options other than a Spring Street location, Faulkner said he believes there may be enough space on the current Williams Inn site to build a new inn while keeping the current building in operation. In a worst-case scenario, the current inn could be razed and a new one built on a fast-development schedule. The 2001 addition was completed in nine months, he said. Asked if the town could get buy without the Williams Inn for nine months, Faulkner replied: "I'd ave to say yes."
Asked if the current site could fit both a new inn building and a new Williams College Museum of Art, Faulkner he had no knowledge of the art museum's site requirements. Faulkner said that at the time the college was concluding its relationship with them as operators, he was told the college was thinking of using the inn building as a temporary dormitory. However, the college now says it will tear down the building if a new inn is build and "greenfield" the land until a new use is determined.
The Faulkners are experienced innkeepers with decades of experience. After working in accounting and management in Boston hotels, the Faulkner's in 1968 gradually acquiried or managed hotels in Plymouth, Mass., Rochester, N.Y. , Southbury, Conn., and Williamstown, ranging in size between 104 and 200 rooms. In Williamstown, their business relied upon a collaborative relationship with Williams College. In 2013, as Faulkner tells the story, Williams abruptly acquired the building mortgage from Faulkner's bank, then told the couple Williams was taking over the hotel with new management, easing their May 1, 2014, retirement. Faulkner now calls himself a "fruit farmer" and says he has not entered the hotel in months. "All this is not my problem," he said. "I'm retired."
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Williams College asked on Tuesday for public comment about ideas for a $65-million, 102,000-square-foot art museum at the corner of Southworth and Main Streets – and got earfuls of criticism about the proposal -- as well as appreciation for holding the meeting.
“You tell us what we have to do to convince you to pick another site,” pleaded Wendy Martin, who lives one street adjacent to the parcel.
At least 130 people showed up for two, hour-long listening sessions called by the college art department and museum program and space planning committee. By the end of the second gathering in Griffin Hall, committee members were acknowledging they had told architectural advisors to get back to their drawing boards and consider smaller ideas for the parcel in the order of 60,000 square feet.
“We’re really at a phase where we can use input and suggestions,” said committee co-chair William Dudley, who, as provost, is a top Williams’ academic officer. Consultants Steven Holl Architects have been told “to see if they can come up with a way to still make this a viable possibility.”
Criticism of Williams went beyond the museum location to encompass general concern about the colleges lack of planning – or at least lack of public-facing planning – concerning building projects that affect town roads, traffic and environment. “When will the college share plans for the overall expansion that’s in the works,” asked one commentator.
The panel heard neighbors of the plot – most of whom disclosed affiliations of one sort or another with Williams – encourage consideration of other locations, particularly the site of the current Williams Inn, as well as the town-own dirt parking lot on Water Street which used to be the site of the municipal-equipment garage.
The former town-garage site was neither identified by nor suggested to architects who prepared a site analyses, said the other committee co-chair, Dean of Faculty Denise Buell. By far the loudest applause at either of the two meetings took place when Williams Prof. Richard Deveaux, whose home is nearly across Southworth Street from the considered site, said:
“It doesn’t seem to be a way of making this into something that the whole community could be joyful about which would be to develop a site that needs to be [developed.]. Like the Williams Inn site where we have a building we don’t know what to do with, or the town garage. You guys are a smart, clever group. Can’t you think of a creative way to make that whole part between Water Street and Spring Street an integrated, semi-urban environment that would connect all these things in a way that would make the town happy.”
In the evening session, when the town-garage site was mentioned again, Dudley commented: “The challenge to that town garage site is the programmatic challenge.”
On the town garage site, “you could build an arbitrarily large building and nobody would much object,” predicted Williams Math Prof. Duane Bailey. “We could build a nice and large space . . . you have an opportunity to build a community that will draw more people.”
Points made by college officials
College officials made these points:
There is, as yet, no donor backing the new art and art history building project. Once and if a definite site is and building plans drawn, the college will seek “new money” from a donor or donors for at least 50 percent of the cost, according to committee co-chair and college Provost Will Dudley said.
While the committee itself in meetings so far over 15 months, reached consensus that the Southworth site was its peference over at least four other choices, and while architects did concept drawings and cost estimates for a museum at that site, deliberations are not at the point where that site is a definitive choice.
At the moment, the architects are only re-designing their thinking about the Southworth site, rather than being asked to look elsewhere. The committee members described this as a reasonable planning strategy – follow a path until it appears to have hit a roadblock, and then drop back and take another route – rather than try to pursue multiple routes simultaneously.
To the college committee, what’s appealing about the Southworth site its relative proximity to the humanities and social-science quad, while still a short walk across Main Street from the Spencer Studio Art Building and a short walk from Lawrence Hall, where WCMA is now based. The runner-up location – the Williams Inn parcel already owned by Williams College at Field Park, is seen by the committee as distant from the rest of the art and art-history facilities, thus elongating walking time for students in the scheduled 10-minute breaks between class periods. “I had that tough time getting from class to class and figured it out,” responded Williams alum Kevin J. Ellingwood, who grew up on Moreland Street, next to Southworth.
Over 20 years, the number of objects in the Williams College Museum of Art College has grown to 14,000 from 6,000, including an apparently recent gift of thousands of objects from one donor. The vast majority are in storage for lack of exhibition space.
Some comments summarized
Among comments from declared opponents, or mere commentators, on the Southworth were the following:
Considering the college’s academic programming needs for faculty and students without regard for their impact on the town’s changing character risks may make Williamstown a less attractive place for families.
It’s difficult for the larger community to envision the impact of the college’s sustaining building binge given that there is no evidence – at least in public -- of a coherent long-term plan For example, when will the college relocate it’s Buildings & Grounds facilities to less prime real-estate? “I don’t think anybody likes B&G where it is,” noted Dudley, the provost.
When will the college announced to the community at large plans to relocate Water Street Books, which it owns, from Water to a new building to be built on Spring Street, and the likely relocation of The College retail store, both in the old Grundy’s Garage building on Water Street next to the fire station? What, then will happen in Grundy’s Garage?
Specific comments during the two sessions:
“I think the college is showing a tendency to be very tunnel vision and not taking into consideration the needs of the community,” argued Elizabeth Williams who said she and her husband had recently moved from the house directly across from the Southworth site. “There is also considerable concern about the type of buildings the college has been constructing,” she added.
“I don’t see this site here as the right choice,” said Selectwoman Anne O’Connor, saying she was speaking as an individual. “We risk losing that thing that makes this town so appealing for families with children to move here,” she said, adding: “The town needs its residential neighborhoods and it seems like the college just keeps picking away at them.”
Nancy J. McIntire, retired executive assistant to several Williams presidents, said in remarks read aloud by a friend, that she hoped “an alternative location can be found.” She said she as worried about traffic-safety issues.
Patrick J. Quinn, who grew up in Williamstown said the Southworth site might be good for art teaching but, “In terms of the town, it’s really not.” By contrast, he said, the Williams Inn site “would be great and has plenty of room for parking.”
At the earlier of the two meetings, Williams professor and economist Stephen Shepard, who has written about and studied the impact of museums on communities, said new museums generally raised property values in Kenosha, Wis., Toledo, Ohio, Beacon, N.Y., and North Adams. At the second meeting, site neighbor Williams Prof. Tom Murtagh said he had reviewed Shepard’s research during supper. He said that was because in each of those places, museum builders “saw an area in need of assistance, of development, and were taking a part in it.” He added: “They looked at it as an opportunity . . . their donors wanted an opportunity to do good.”
Karen Shepard, who teaches English at Williams, argued for the Williams Inn site, urged the planning committee to embrace the idea of spreading resources and disciplines across the campus rather than in programmatic ghettos. The convenience of faculty or students in having a short walk should not be a defining consideration, she said.
This blog post was written by Bill Densmore (firstname.lastname@example.org)
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- In a long and casual email apparently sent to all staff and faculty, the president of Williams College has revealed the school is mulling a proposal for a 60-room hotel to be built on college-owned land at the south end of Spring Street.
College President Adam Falk wrote:
"A professional feasibility study confirmed that a hotel of around 60 rooms, located somewhere around where the American Legion building is now, would be profitable. If this project were to go ahead, it would be developed with funds other than those used for college operations, and the running of the hotel would be contracted out. Such a project, of course, would take several years."
About 15 years ago the same parcel was considered for construction of a performing-arts center but was rejected after neighbors objected and wetlands issues arose. Presently, the Williams Inn operates on land owned by Williams College and in a building built by the school. The college remains involved in the finances of the Williams Inn.
In the email, Falk also disclosed the college is mulling whether it would make sense to move the college-owned Water Street Books to Spring Street and create what he called a "college store." And he commented on the ebb-and-flow of store openings and closings on Spring Street. His comments come amid the news that St. Pierre's Barber Shop will relocate, a deli store has closed, and other storefronts are in transition.
In the email, college President Adam Falk also disclosed:
The college will donate four acres of land next to the 60-unit Proprietor's Field senior-housing complex for use to create an affordable-housing development. The development is viewed as a way to assist current and former residents of a town mobile-home park displace by August, 2011 flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. (Read Transcript story)
The college facilitated an effort by a group of Williams alumni which resulted in over $450,000 being raised to support academic-enrichment and teacher-training programs at the regional public high school serving Williamstown -- Mount Greylock Regional High School. (See iBerksihres STORY)
ADAMS, Mass. -- Between 75 and 125 people gathered Thursday, June 30, for BerkshireCreative.org's "Spark" networking event. Attendees heard a pitch about the creative economy, plans for renovation the Adams Armory into a multimedia performance space, and were served beverages and food by regional vendors. Here are some photos of the two-hour gathering (click on any photo to enlarge):
Above: Explaining the evening.
Above: Participants in a "circle" intro session
Left: A sign on the side of the old Adams Armory, now gutted as community performance shell space; marking the "Armory Court" commercial alleyway. At right, BerkshireCreative.org executive director Helena Fruscio on stage at the Armory.
North Adams, MA - The Family Fun Day Celebration will be held Sunday, September 27 from 12:30-3:30 pm at the Noel Field Complex near Joe Wolfe Field on State Street. Children and families will enjoy games, giveaways, information and entertainment. The fair begins with the children’s road race. Call 413.664.6180 for information and a list of foliage events.
North Adams, MA - The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition hosts their Kick – off forum at the First Baptist Church at 131 Main Street at 10 AM on Friday, September 11. The forum will begin with a commemoration of those who have died in the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. Refreshments will be served and all are welcome. Call 413.663.7588.
Berkshire County, MA, August 31, 2009—The Berkshire Creative Economy Council (Berkshire Creative) is launching a new program this fall 2009; the Creative Challenge. The Creative Challenge connects Berkshire manufacturers and businesses with local designers, engineers and creative workers with the aim of stimulating innovative research and development for existing and/or new product lines.
The Creative Challenge was born from “Design It Here, Make It Here”; an initiative outlined in the 2007 Berkshire Creative Economy Report, which suggested developing a campaign to explore the interest in and capacity for manufacturers in the county to take on the production of “creative products.” The report identified that, “Likely candidates would be those companies that manufacture plastics, metal, fabrics, and wood products, as well as those involved in printing.”
“We know research and development is important to every company”, says Helena Fruscio, Director of Berkshire Creative, “We want to connect our local manufacturers with the exceptional creative talent here in the Berkshires; to facilitate the kind of innovation that results in advancement in product lines and modes of production.”
Interprint, Inc. of Pittsfield, a leading designer and printer of decor paper used as the design layer in laminate surfaces such as countertops, flooring, furniture, store fixtures and a host of other applications, will host the first Creative Challenge.
Interprint’s Creative Challenge to local creatives is to create and submit one or more repeatable patterns, appropriate for any of the above applications. Patterns may be submitted at any level of completion, from conceptual, to ‘camera-ready’, and in any media, from traditional to electronic.
A Creative Challenge consists of three parts: o The Creative Challenge is announced and an application to participate is made available on berkshirecreative.org. o Participants are chosen from the applicant pool to participate in a site visit and Creative Challenge briefing at the host company site. o Participants propose solutions to the Creative Challenge.
An open application for the Interprint Creative Challenge may be found on berkshirecreative.org. Applicants of all creative disciplines are invited to apply: designers, engineers, artists, etc. Applicants will be reviewed by Interprint and selected participants will be announced Friday, October 9th, 2009.
Selected participants will convene for a site visit at Interprint on Friday, October 23, 2009 where they will be briefed on all aspects of the Interprint’s products and processes, and then the creativity begins!
After the site visit, participants will submit solutions to the Creative Challenge. Proposals will then be reviewed by Interprint’s design staff for possible development. If Interprint decides to further develop any submissions, it will purchase the creation.
Judy Wolgast, Design Director at Interprint states, “We’re thrilled to host the first Creative Challenge of Berkshire County. We know how much raw creative talent exists locally and we cannot wait to have new product ideas generated.”
“This program features and connects Berkshire creativity at it finest, designing it here and making it here, with the goal of new revenue streams for each of the parties”, says Helena Fruscio, Director of Berkshire Creative.
Companies interested in hosting a Creative Challenge should contact Helena Fruscio, Director of Berkshire Creative by phone or 413.822.8324 or email at email@example.com.