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Editorial: Changes on Pleasant Street, Northampton

Northampton Lumber, on Pleasant Street in Northampton, is for sale.

KEVIN GUTTING Northampton Lumber, on Pleasant Street in Northampton, is for sale. Purchase photo reprints »

Pleasant Street in Northampton, the city’s southern gateway, has seen its share of transformation, followed avidly by a public rooting for its success. Here, as on any business hub, n ew enterprises start. Some fail and some take root. Old business thrive, change with the times, and, sometimes, close up shop.

To the dismay of many, the Pleasant Street Theater closed in June. Michael Ladden, one of the owners of a chain of Irish pubs, aims to open the 75-seat McLadden’s Irish Publick House, possibly by the end of the year if crucial state approval is won. The company operates pubs in Hartford, Conn., and in Hampden. Ladden said he has been considering Northampton for years because “we like the city’s downtown vibe.”

Building owner Joseph Blumenthal candidly said he would have preferred a retail shop, but believes the pub will be a good fit for the neighborhood.

Nobody can argue with turning an empty storefront into a commercial venture. Still, neighbors are concerned about the disruption a bar might bring. They expressed concerns to the city’s License Commission, which last week held a hearing about the transfer of a liquor license to the company. They are worried about the intrusion of lighting, noise, trash and loitering that might accompany a bar that stays open until well past midnight. They submitted documents to the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which must sign off on the liquor license transfer approved by the city.

One Pleasant Street resident, while she said she respects Ladden’s business plan, bemoaned the number of restaurants and bars in the vicinity, saying noise at closing can be unbearable. While we sympathize with anyone whose sleep and peace of mind is disrupted, we suggest such problems go with living downtown. Even so, neighbors should speak up when an establishment is about to move in, if only to remind the business owners that they are entering a neighborhood where people live.

Ladden seems to welcome hearing from neighbors. He has met with residents and said he intends to be a good neighbor.

Meanwhile, down the street, an iconic Pleasant Street business is preparing for a major change. After five decades run by the same family, Northampton Lumber Co. and the land it sits on at 256 Pleasant St. is for sale.

Owner Gail LaBarge has put the enterprise on the market for $1.8 million.

In this economy, it’s tough to predict how long it will take to sell the business, but LaBarge said her decision to sell is not so much driven by the market as by personal reasons. After five decades working at or running the city business, she wants to spend more time with her family and travel.

Meanwhile, the real estate agent handling the listing said a handful of inquiries have come in, some of which are from people interested in the lumber business itself, and others from people interested in the property alone.

Depending on who seals a deal, change may be in the offing for that part of Pleasant Street, where nearby businesses have been sprucing up. The former Eagle’s Club was rehabbed not long ago and the block on the west side of the street, which houses Northampton Coffee, Beehive Sewing, the OxBow Gallery and Ye Ol’ Watering Hole, is getting major repairs.

It’s been said that change is the only constant, and nowhere is that more evident then on a city’s commercial artery like Pleasant Street.

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