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Mayor of North Adams relaunches process for sale of iconic theater

 Marquee of the Mohawk Theater on Main Street in North Adams, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen
Marquee of the Mohawk Theater on Main Street in North Adams, Massachusetts.

North Adams, Massachusetts, Mayor Jennifer Macksey announced this week she wants to restart the process for selling and redeveloping the iconic Mohawk Theater.

Macksey, who took office earlier this month, is scrapping a proposed deal supported by her predecessor, Tom Bernard.

The 1938 theater, with its grand marquee on Main Street, has been shuttered for decades.

The city bought it in 1996 and owes nearly $52,000 on it, something Macksey said she recently discovered — and more than double what the city would have gotten from the proposed sale.

At a City Council meeting this week, Macksey said she wanted to begin the request for bids for the theater again, in part, because of the money still owed, and she said she wants to engage the community.

"So they don't feel left out of the process, about suggestions or things we maybe haven't thought of or things that we haven't discussed," she said.

Macksey said she hopes to have a new request for proposals ready in the next 30 to 45 days, "with exact expectations and timeline" for potential developers.

Macksey said she notified Veselko Buntic, who had made a bid of $21,000, that she had decided to reject his proposal. The mayor said she is hopeful he will submit a new bid.

"This is no reflection on Mr. Buntic and his proposal," Macksey said. "It's solely based on process and other aspects of developing a sound [request for proposals] that would move North Adams in the best direction it can for this property."

The mayor said she would like to have a couple of focus groups with the community and include "a few members from the general public" on the selection review committee.

City Councilor Keith Bona, who owns a business near the Mohawk, said it's smart to try to recoup what the city owes on it.

"People have to understand, though, it needs to be something different. But something that still brings that memory back to us of the grand size of the theater, but that has many more multi purposes," Bona said.

City Council President Lisa Blackmer said the committee that evaluates the proposals should include people with different kinds of expertise.

"They shouldn't all be finance people. They shouldn't all be planners. They shouldn't all be the public," Blackmer said. "They should be someone from economic development background, someone with a finance background, someone with a creative background, someone with project management experience."

Bernard, the former mayor, declined to comment on Macksey's plan to restart the process, saying it was her project to lead.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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