The Town of Great Barrington and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission partnered to produce a video advertising the Housatonic School. Screengrab courtesy the Town and the BRPC
HOUSATONIC — The long-stalled journey to sell the town-owned Housatonic School lastly seems to be making some progress, city officers say.
Great Barrington Town Manager Mark Pruhenski
Town Manager Mark Pruhenski informed the selectboard Monday evening that there have been 22 requires copies of the request for proposals (RFPs) from the city. The renewed curiosity was sparked by a second website go to on March 17 wherein “a number of groups had been there to tour the constructing,” Pruhenski added.
“Some even took many hours that day to make an in depth research of the constructing, together with gathering measurements so as to create correct price estimates,” Pruhenski mentioned in an govt abstract he supplied to the board. “And a minimum of one different group which had not beforehand seen the website was there.”
The city has additionally launched into an aggressive advertising marketing campaign, posting on Facebook and Instagram, itemizing the property on Loopnet, a business actual property portal, and producing a slick new video produced at no cost by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. That video, displayed beneath, had been seen 363 instances as of noon March 30.
An promoting marketing campaign aimed toward the New York and Boston markets has reached an estimated 20,000 individuals. The response has been sturdy sufficient that Pruhenski requested the board this week to prolong the deadline for RFP submissions from April 17 to June 10. The board voted unanimously to achieve this.
The extension will give potential builders extra time to solidify their plans, attain out to potential tenants, safe financing, get their very own budgets so as, and full their designs.
“We need to give builders the finest shot they’ll to put their finest foot ahead on this,” Pruhenski mentioned.
The additional effort seems to have been impressed by the realization that, in the phrases earlier this 12 months of selectboard chair Steve Bannon, this time will probably be “our final shot at this.” The different could be to tear it down, although Bannon rapidly added that “proper now demolition continues to be a four-letter phrase.”
Broken home windows on the former Housatonic School constructing. Photo: Terry Cowgill
Previous efforts at discovering a reuse for the college have proved unsuccessful. Since the Berkshire Hills Regional School District closed the college in 2005 and introduced all its college students to the Monument Valley Road campus, the city has tried and failed a minimum of 3 times to market the 116-year-old constructing to potential builders, however has acquired no viable proposals.
Most just lately, in 2019, the city pulled the plug on a proposal by Grayhouse Partners to redevelop the constructing by a public-private partnership. The proposal known as for a combined use of the constructing that included so-called enterprise incubator areas, and collaborative workspaces for expertise and enterprise. The proposal, which might have left the city the proprietor of the college, struggled to discover sufficient funding.
At a gathering in January, Town Planner Chris Rembold supplied an govt abstract he had ready after receiving a report on the constructing in December from the Housatonic Improvement Committee, which really useful a mixed-use strategy for the constructing after an exhaustive course of involving an architectural charette. The estimated price ticket for that idea could possibly be as excessive as $7 million, partly as a result of hazardous constructing supplies would want to be eliminated and disposed of.
An aerial view of the former Housatonic School, which lies between the group heart and the playground. Image courtesy Google Maps
The two-story constructing sits on solely .65 acre and the construction itself covers 35% of the parcel. The college constructing on Pleasant Street is sandwiched between the Housy Dome, which is the gymnasium annex of the former college that’s at present used as a preferred group heart for the village of Housatonic, and the village playground.
Among many different points, the group submitting the profitable proposal should additionally deal successfully with hazardous materials in the constructing. The city accomplished a Phase 1 environmental website evaluation in 2012. A hazardous constructing supplies inspection carried out two years in the past revealed the presence of asbestos and lead paint.
But the city additionally appropriated, by city assembly in 2019, $650,000 for “Housatonic School enhancements,” together with a brand new roof and home windows. Those funds stay unspent and could possibly be used to assist a developer’s efforts, city officers say. The failing roof was tarped final 12 months and the home windows boarded up. Officials say it prices roughly $5,000 per 12 months to keep the property.