NORTH ADAMS – The town is once again trying to sell the long-empty Mohawk Theater.
A call for tenders for the purchase and redevelopment of the building was published on Wednesday.
“We know this is an interesting property,” Mayor Tom Bernard said Thursday, “and this is a property with enormous potential and also potential interest. There has always been potential interest in it.”
It seemed like the right time “now that we have arrived in force thanks to the recovery from COVID,” he said.
The property, a two-story brick building, is worth $ 436,800, according to the city. It once served as a movie theater and closed in 1991. In the decades that followed, it was difficult to redevelop a property.
The city purchased the building in 1996, during the tenure of former Mayor John Barrett III. A transformation project into an event and community space did not materialize. Mayor Richard Alcombright started a partnership with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to develop the building, but financial hurdles stood in the way and it never came to fruition.
In 2019, the city council gave the green light to Bernard to launch a call for tenders, but he voted that a developer should preserve the tent of the theater. This requirement remains, according to Bernard.
In December, the city called for proposals to buy and redevelop the property.
Of the two proposals submitted, one did not meet the minimum requirements. The other, Bernard said: “I didn’t feel, and the review board making a recommendation to me didn’t feel like me, it was in the best interests of the city.”
Community Revitalization of North Adams, a group of community members, submitted a proposal for a “flexible use community center” this year. This group was considering redevelopment to have a commercial space, event space, bar, bakery, theater and recording studio.
But, that proposal did not include a bid bond or certified check for $ 10,000, according to Zachary Feury, project coordinator at the city’s Community Development Office. This proposal offers $ 1 for the property “as the first step in a community-initiated design, fundraising, construction and operation process,” the proposal states.
The other proposal, submitted by Yina Moore of Sincerity Builds LLC, offered $ 100,000 for the building and proposed to transform it into a “Mohawk Theater and Performing Arts Center”. But, during the early years, the proposal called for the building to be an exhibition space for the Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum.
The nomination dossier contains a letter of intent from Thomas Krens, CEO of the proposed museum and former director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, stating that the museum would lease the entire space for three years after its renovation. Krens had previously proposed a renovation of the theater as part of a larger vision of downtown development.
“At that point, it just didn’t sound like the proposal that was in the best interest of the city,” Bernard said of Moore’s proposal.
This time, how does the city promote its tender?
“In some ways, it’s like a job offer,” Bernard said. “You post the offer, then you tap into your personal and professional networks to create a pool of candidates that is as competitive as possible.
He added: “My hope is, and my guess is, that we’ll see some really interesting ideas.”
Proposals are due by October 25th.