Great Barrington — Developers of the new Berkshire Co-op Market complex on Bridge Street are ready for their special permit from the town so they can keep moving through the process and start work in March on a game-changing retail, office and housing complex.
But at last night’s (Jan. 9) Selectboard special permit hearing, an attorney for Wheeler & Taylor Insurance said his client’s property will likely be encroached upon by Benchmark Development’s plans.
Attorney Peter Puciloski explained that the insurance and real estate company owns the building and the bank on the corner, and is the sole abutter on the east and south sides. He said there were two concerns: that the project appears so close to the property line that it “might encroach,” and that construction may block access to a 30-foot right of way that Wheeler & Taylor was deeded access to.
“It’s a violation of our easement and we’re not happy about it, and we won’t allow that to happen,” Puciloski told the board, to which he had submitted a letter describing the problem. He also asked that the hearing be continued to give Benchmark time to regroup.
Benchmark’s Brian Cohan said he and partner Michael Charles had only received the letter that day and that they would “follow any legal requirements — we’ll address that.”
“The plan all along has been to construct from our side of the site,” Cohan added.
Great Barrington is about to look and feel very different. This two-phase project will install an expanded, 14,000-square-foot Co-op near the top of Bridge Street at the site of its current parking lot and the old Laramee’s Cleaners area. The current Co-op building will be the new parking lot. Plans call for retail and high-end office space in the new 4-story Co-op building, along with 22 condominium apartments.
Charles had earlier told The Edge he anticipates 12 to 13 months of construction for this first phase.
Meanwhile, the Co-op is getting ready by asking the community for $1.3 million in loans by February 1, and has set up a website for this purpose. The natural food retailer has so far received $405,000.
Phase two involves construction of another 36-unit condominium complex and underground parking to the rear of the current Co-op location. Benchmark ran into an aesthetic tangle with the Historic Commission over this building’s proximity to Searles Castle, but the commission and Benchmark appear to be working it out.
There was also an issue with sidewalk construction that would raise the height of the Co-op building above what town codes allow. Selectboard member Bill Cooke asked about this and Cohan said it was addressed by not keeping sidewalks in the plan.
But board chair Sean Stanton pointed out that the town would then have to pay for sidewalks there.
Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said the town would work with Benchmark on the sidewalk issue.
“I don’t want to lose the opportunity to have someone else pay for what we want downtown,” Stanton said.
Benchmark’s special permit hearing was continued to Monday, Feb. 13.