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North Adams Dealt With Big Projects, Big Challenges in 2023
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
04:56PM / Wednesday, January 03, 2024
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Congressman Richie Neal joins state and MCLA officials to cut the ribbon on the new nursing program on the campus of what will be North Adams Regional Hospital.

North Adams will no longer be known as the city where trees grew upside-down. Natalie Jeremijenko's 'Tree Logic' was retired after 11 years.

The city was hit by several torrential rains in 2023 that caused flooding and damage.

A long 'lost' plaque honoring one of the city's early mayors, William Kirk Greer, was installed at City Hall.

Local officials and representatives from Hoosic River Revival tour the flood control chutes with the feasibility study team from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Downstreet Hotel celebrates a multi-million dollar refresh of the former Holiday Inn on Main Street.

The celebration launch at Studio 9 for the Massachusetts Founders Network.

The Veterans Memorial Bridge was the second bridge this year to be deemed structurally deficient by the state.

The Porter Block on historic Eagle Street and 103 Main St. saw significant exterior work done in 2023.

Masons from Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey dedicate a headstone to fellow Mason and Civil War veteran Maj. Thomas Ward Osborn, who is buried in Hill Side Cemetery.

MCLA honors the legacy of the late Stephen Green, retired college professor and administrator and longtime community volunteer.

The North Adams Citizens Police Academy graduates its first class.

The marquee to the Mohawk Theater is back in place after a complete refurbishment.

North Adams celebrates the end of 2023 with its first-ever ball drop.

Gov. Healey came to North Adams to survey the damage caused by torrential rains in July. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is ending a year filled with major projects getting underway, some massive infrastructure challenges and the announced revival of a significant pillar of the community. 
In a year of "big" news, the resurrection of North Adams Regional Hospital was a stunner for many in the community.  
The hospital closed in 2014 when its owner Northern Berkshire Healthcare went bankrupt and its assets purchased by Berkshire Health Systems. It's demise was a shock to the North County system. More than 500 jobs were affected and thousands of people in Northern Berkshire and Southern Vermont had to look farther north or south for medical care. 
BHS has poured millions into the campus to support a satellite emergency department and other medical services but mothballed patient beds on the 2 North wing in hopes of reopening them. 
That became possible earlier this year with changes in the federal criteria for a "critical access hospital" championed by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal. In December, state's Public Health Council approved the determination of need that will allow the hospital to move forward with renovations to open 18 beds in spring 2024 with the potential for seven more.
BHS is also supporting Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' new bachelor degree in nursing program, which will use a floor in the Doctor's Building for classrooms and a model nursing unit. Neal, who obtained $350,000 toward the program was there to cut the ribbon in September.
Another project has also been years — really decades — in the making. The city has signed an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers for a three-year, $3 million feasibility study of the Hoosic River flood control system. 
The concrete chutes built by the Corps back in the 1950s have been deteriorating for years, with several panels dropping or leaning into the river. The nonprofit Hoosic River Revival has been working for more than a decade to convince federal and state officials to consider a more environmental solution to flooding that would also rethink the river as a community resource.
The study will take into consideration feedback from residents and other shareholders but recommendations and actual construction are still years away.
The city hoping for a faster response to the Veterans Memorial Bridge, which was deemed "structurally deficient" in November. 
The bridge is limited to two lanes in the middle of the four-lane span that carries Route 2 over the Hoosic River and will be closed to heavy truck traffic. 
It's future could be determined by the outcome of a $750,000 study being done through a federal grant from Bipartisan Infrastructure Act's Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program. The grant is a collaboration between the city and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Museum visitors trying to get to downtown from the former Spraque Electric campus have to navigate a sea of parking lots, a street that's four lanes as it approaches the city center, numerous lights and crosswalks and a massive overpass. The study will seek recommendations for better connections that could include taking the 60-year-old span down.
Access to the city's West End was complicated over the past year with memorial bridge only the latest obstacle. Earlier in the year, the Brown Street was closed for structural issues, a massive reconstruction of a culvert system closed first Ashton Avenue and then Massachusetts Avenue, and work will be happening on the Billy Evans bridge through this winter. 
The city also found itself struggling with washed out streets following a torrential downpour in July that caused more than $4 million damages and brought both the governor and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal to North Adams, and a failing roof at the YMCA that closed the pool, but was able to move the Police Department out of the deficient public safety building and saw a revamped -- but not yet lit -- Mohawk marquee installed.
One project still a couple years away is the proposal for a brand-new Greylock Elementary School to replace both Brayton Elementary and the current Greylock. The School Committee voted in October to move forward with the $61 million project that is now in the Massachusetts School Building Authority's preferred schematic phase. 
Government Changes
There were a number of changes in local government this year with elections and appointments but the most controversial was the departure of the former police chief, Jason Wood. Wood later sued for wrongful termination and settled with the city for $96,000 and mutual agreement not to disparage each other. Mayor Jennifer Macksey appointed Sgt. Marky Bailey as interim chief.

A mural unveiled at the Amory honors supporters of youth sports including the late Bernard 'Bucky' Bullett. 
Macksey easily cruised to a second two-year term and three new faces will join the City Council on New Year's Day: Peter Breen, Andrew Fitch and Deanna Morrow. 
City Councilors Jennifer Barbeau, Marie T. Harpin and Michael Obasohan did not run for re-election.
The School Committee also had some changes with the addition of Alyssa Tomkowicz and Cody Chamberlain. Tomkowicz elected by the committee and City Council back in March to fill the position left vacant by Joshua Vallieres' resignation. 
The city clerk's office seems to have stabilized after a run of a resignations. Tina Leonesio was sworn in 
as city clerk and Melissa Kilbride as assistant clerk this past summer. 
Big projects aren't just happening on the municipal side. Tourists resort announced plans for 50 new hotel rooms, a restaurant and a reception space in the Blackinton Mill. The ambitious project would also include planning for the North Adams Adventure Trail, a public bike and pedestrian path that will pass through the property.
Meanwhile, Porches Inn on River Street is in the process of adding 11 new rooms, Hotel Downstreet opened with its revamped rooms and lobby and Northern Berkshire EMS purchased the former Don's Service Center across the street to be able to service its fleet of vehicles in house.
A statewide one-stop source for networking, collaboration and resources for innovative entrepreneurs — Massachusetts Founders Network — was launched from North Adams-based Lever IncEconomic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao
was one of a number of state officials and business leaders who attended the launch.
It wasn't all good news as the North Adams Cinema closed its doors in January after struggling with changes in ownership, movie-going attendance and a pandemic since opening in the former Kmart Plaza in 2007. Also bidding goodbye was Brewhaha, which closed at the beginning of December when owners Nancy and Barry Garton retired. 


A new Greylock School wasn't the only big news this year. McCann Technical School scored a $600,000 grant to expand its practical nursing program and started construction on a $2.9 million building to house a new heating, air conditioning and ventilation program. 

MCLA stirred up some controversy when it considered opening its shuttered Berkshire Tower dormitories as an emergency shelter for the state. But college President James Birge said in May that "after extensive consideration," he was halting discussions because of operational concerns and unanswered questions. The proposal had run into significant opposition within the city. 

Community News

The first New Year's Eve ball drop was instituted with promises that it would become an annual tradition and plans for more surrounding activities in the coming years. Mayor Jennifer Macksey added five more names to the North Adams Women's History Hall of Fame, a mural was unveiled at the Armory honoring local supporters of youth sports, the Drury High School band celebrated 100 years and Mary Lou Acetta was recognized with the 2023 Peacemaker Award. 

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