North Adams Transcript
NORTH ADAMS -- After a decade of searching for its own facility in North County, United Cerebral Palsy of Berkshire County has found a place to call home.
The organization, which moved into 26 Union St. last summer, is poised to purchase the former Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of Northern Berkshire at 535 Curran Highway at the end of August.
"We’re so excited. We always knew that we wanted our own space, but we just couldn’t find the right space," Executive Director Christine Singer said Tuesday. "When we moved into 26 Union St., we knew that it would only be a temporary solution, but at the time, it was the space that best matched our needs. Within five months, we had already outgrown the space. We were having to adapt spaces for multiple uses. Our Early Intervention program would use space during the day and pack it up at the end of their day so our staff could take over the space in the evening to teach life skills and social skills programs to teens and adults at night. It’s a wonderful space, but it has been stressful to share the space."
While staff members made the space work, she said she’s always had an eye out for their dream space -- a building with land for an outdoor play area for children and an outdoor recreation area for adults, a place for a community garden, plenty of parking and situated along the bus route.
"For 10 out of the 16 years I’ve been with UCP, our No. 1 strategic goal was to purchase our own facility," Singer said. "We were able to do that in Pittsfield in 2004 and it’s been wonderful. [The VNA] is a site that we never expected to come on the market. When we heard about it through the grapevine, we made sure everyone knew as quickly as we could that we were interested and submitted a purchase and sales agreement right way. We don’t quite need all of the 13,000 square feet at this point, so we’ll be looking to rent space to an organization with similar goals and to form stronger partnerships with other social service agencies, making our new space a hub of community activity."
Northern Berkshire Healthcare, the VNA’s parent organization, announced plans to market the building and the 2.65 acres of land it sits on, along with the former Women’s Exchange buildings in Williamstown last October, as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy settlement with its bondholders. The VNA relocated its offices to the North Adams Regional Hospital campus in March and the building was listed with Steepleview Realty at an asking price of $699,000.
Singer declined disclosing the UCP’s purchase price, as negotiations are still ongoing. However, she said UCP is launching a capital campaign this week to begin raising $500,000 that it will need for the property -- a combination of $134,000 that will be borrowed from its endowment to make a 20 percent down payment and some $398,897 for renovations to the building over a three-year period.
"The building doesn’t need much work since it was built in 1994, but we will need to adapt it to our needs," she said.
Immediate needs, which are in the range of $221,000, include making three bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, new carpeting and flooring, architectural fees, moving expenses, a new phone system, a security and fire system with video monitoring, drainage work and painting costs. Within a year, the organization would like to fence in the property and install a handicapped-accessible door opener. Within five years, the group is looking to replace the building’s roof, purchase playground equipment and purchase furniture for a conference room.
Last year, UCP served 400 families and individuals in Northern Berkshire.