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Planning Workshop Looks at North Adams' Heritage Resources
By Stephanie Farrington, iBerkshires Contributor
02:27PM / Monday, October 17, 2011
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State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, standing, singles out a point of interest at the heritage resource meeting of Sustainable Berkshires last Thursday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The third floor of the library was a hive of activity Thursday evening as Sustainable Berkshires held its first topic-specific, vision-planning session on the subject of so-called "heritage resources."

Thursday's community workshop focused on designating specific historic neighborhoods, protecting historic buildings, landscapes and cultural resources in North Adams. Ideas discussed included new heritage surveys for buildings at risk, and the possibility of a "Mill Corridor" designated as an historic district.

The group broke into four groups of six to discuss the specific topics of neighborhood preservation, historic buildings, landscapes and cultural assets. The meeting was facilitated by Berkshire Regional Planning Commission staff, who said it was helpful to know how residents perceive historic preservation.

That may be so but some participants noted preservation is not yet on the radar for many members of the community. 

"I don't think it's appreciated as much as it should be, I don't think the community understands or appreciates it as much as they should," said local historian Paul W. Marino. "When I was researching the iron company (which smelted the plates for the ironclad USS Monitor), I was told, 'people in North Adams don't care about local history' and I think that's still true."

Business owner and Eclipse Mill resident Gail Sellers, who is running for City Council, pointed out the value historic preservation brings to any small community both in terms of actual dollars from tourist revenue and by other means.

"If we could find some way to get the word out about these projects, I think people would quickly understand the important contributions heritage buildings could make to the community," said Sellers. "The problem is, people don't know about it."

Others in attendance included state Rep. Gailanne Carridi, Art About Town organizer Phil Sellers, North Adams Tourism Director Veronica Bosley, Jonathan Secor of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, North Historical Society President Charles "Chuck" Cahoon, Gene and Justyna Carlson of the society's Executive Committee, Kurt Kolok of te Kolok Gallery at Windsor Mill, Ralph Brill of Eclipse Mill's Brill Gallery, local musician Tony Pisano of Berkshire Farms Apiary and other community members.

BCRP Planner Mackenzie Greer said it is necessary to choose the most urgently needed sites for preservation, but unfortunately, "In a number of cases we end up planning by triage." 

This was the first of a series of specific planning sessions geared to exploring economic and social development in the city of North Adams over the next two decades; an overview meeting was held in July.  The information gathered from this and other sessions will be central to the planning process initiated by Sustainable Berkshires this summer. 

The three-year planning process is being funded by U.S. Housing and Urban Development to envision a comprehensive, countywide strategy for the next several decades.

BCRP Senior Planner Amy Kacala will lead meetings on topics ranging from public transportation to housing, health and other aspects of economic and community development throughout the winter and into next year. The public is welcome to attend and participate in setting priorities for development.

Stephanie Farrington is a freelance writer in North Adams. You can reach her at stephanie.farrington@gmail.com.

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