Residents Offer Ideas for Mohawk Theater Proposals / iBerkshires.com

Mayor Jennifer Macksey is asking for feedback ahead of the release of the next request for proposals for the Mohawk Theatre. The second meeting is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the town hall.


Mayor Jennifer Macksey explains the bidding process during Monday’s community forum at the Mohawk Theatre.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The next request for proposals for the Mohawk Theater will include community feedback.

About 30 attendees offered their thoughts and thoughts Monday on what they would like to see in the old cinema at the first of two public forums this week. Some were specific – a leisure space, a brewery or the Berkshire Carousel – but the major theme that emerged was a multi-purpose venue that could operate most of the year.

Mayor Jennifer Macksey said she wanted to “liven up” the proposal with a community feedback section so bidders could get an idea of ​​what the community would support. Wearing an embellished Mohawk Theater t-shirt, she said her role was to moderate the forum and provide facts to attendees.

“No idea is stupid. No idea will enter the tender,” she said. “I just want to promote a dialogue, OK. And you can say something that I’m going to put away in my brain from a binder that maybe we can bring to life on another project. So I want everyone to feel at comfortable sharing. I want everyone to be respectful.”

Maccksey said his team was developing a list of architects who were working on other projects to alert them that the building would be available and to speak with other communities who were having success in this area.

“We’re taking a different approach than just posting it in the central registry,” she said.

Plans to sell the 80-year-old theater last year annoyed residents who came out in force at city council meetings to oppose the move. The former administration had recommended selling the gutted building to Veselko Buntic, the owner of the building adjacent to 103 Main St. that he plans to turn into a hotel. Buntic’s proposal was to use the structure as an adjoining event venue with a restaurant.

Maccksey rejected the offer in his first month in office and promised to seek community feedback before issuing another tender. She kept her word on Monday, soliciting ideas from residents who remembered the cinema and from newcomers interested in preserving its history.

But the long-closed theater is unlikely to return to its former glory: few remains of the interior and most of the building is just a shell. But there could be an art deco-inspired renovation for newer, more flexible purposes.

The vision has long been a performing arts center and the city invested $2,656,435 in public grants in the theater project with $889,000 used for various studies and engineering, including a $30 Massachusetts Cultural Council grant. $000 to consider connecting it to the Dowlin Block. Another $600,000 loan approved by city council in 2009 was used as a “bridge” loan during stabilization work at that time, and the city still owes a total of $53,560 with interest.

A number of people again brought up musical shows and touring companies, but Andy Hoar of Williamstown, who worked for many years as a production manager in the theater department at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, said the structure was not conducive to large acts as it was built as a single-screen movie theater.

“There are certain limitations to the building itself and how it’s used. … You’re talking about touring or bringing in a big musical production, those kinds of things require a certain number of seats to be sold in order to make these businesses profitable,” he said. “In this space, you have to not only have the house, the lower part of the stage, but also the balcony to achieve this minimum requirement of 1,000 or 1,200 squares.”

Adding a stage means the sight lines from the balcony won’t work, so to make it a show space, the back wall would have to be pushed into the parking lot. There is also no “behind the scenes” for changing rooms or equipment.

Twenty years ago, the price was around $2 million, but by the time the plug-in was retired nearly a decade later, the cost had edged closer to $12 million.

Hoar’s suggestion was to look at the cinematic aspect by considering a giant screen or Imax. But a question about how many people in the audience had gone to a move recently got barely half a dozen hands raised. Additionally, several people have noted that its reopening as a movie theater could kill the struggling movie theater across the street.

Resident Robert Cardimino said it would be the perfect location for the Berkshire Carousel, which closed in 2019 after just three years in operation. Moving it from Pittsfield would make Main Street an attraction, he said.

David Willette argued for a leisure center with a climbing wall and virtual activities and Glenn Murray thought it was a perfect location for a brasserie and restaurant. Councilman Keith Bona noted that the city had lost many venues where weddings, receptions and balls had taken place.

Gail Grandchamp, who had strongly opposed the abandonment of the theater, said that being a shell would allow for other activities such as stand-ups and small performances.

“You can set up chairs, or you can create different kinds of sets for that. We can also do movies, but call it theater – if you look around, theaters die. They close. They don’t make money. money,” she said. “We need a performance center with all kinds of multi-things. Because it’s the core group in downtown North Adams, so let’s keep it there.”

Murray said all of the options offered were good, but noted they wouldn’t come cheap.

“It’s going to cost somebody a ton of money to open it up. To buy it, fix it, refurbish it, whatever and make it work, it’s going to cost a ton of money,” Murray said, adding lots of discarded ideas. were good, but “do the day to day activities make money? I think that’s what we’ll need there.”

Bona indicated that he was estimated at $600,000 a year just to keep the theater running.

Robert Smith said the cost was not something they should worry about – it would be up to whoever bought the building. But it raised the question of who should own the building – the community or a private developer.

“I wish it was privately owned, but community ownership will be fine as long as someone does something with it,” Councilman Bryan Sapienza said. “We’ve been sitting there with an empty building for how many years now and we have to do something about it. If we don’t, something catastrophic could happen to the building.”

Russ “When” Leggett, artist and founder of Citizen Steam, a fledgling nonprofit seeking to creatively empower communities, said they would love to see theater owned by the community.

“If we could find a way to be people who help manage this, that’s something we’re really interested in,” he said. “And doing more like that to restore the Mohawk Theater in a way that people would want and use it the way they want it and know it’s not going to be sold to someone who then takes it and does something a way that cannot build memories for generations.”

The second forum is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. again in the city council chambers.

Key words: mohawk theatre,

About Catharine C. Bean

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