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Shaw’s Motel, Green Street building may be demolished

  • GORDON DANIELS<br/>Green Street Cafe on Green Street, Northampton, will be closing in January. Smith College's Ford Hall in the background
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Shaw's Motel, 87 Bridge Street, Northampton.

A longtime business at a key gateway to the city’s downtown, Shaw’s Motel, on the corner of Bridge Street and Pomeroy Terrace, is now boarded up and has been on the market for more than two years.

Northampton resident Harold R. Fitzgerald, of Fitzgerald Properties at 37 Mary Jane Lane, filed a zoning permit application with the building inspector’s office Thursday in which he proposes to demolish the motel at 87 Bridge St. and renovate a six-unit apartment building and a single-family home on Pomeroy Terrace.

Building Inspector Louis Hasbrouck sent the application to the Historical Commission for a demolition delay review. Under that process, the commission must determine whether the building has enough historical, architectural and cultural significance to warrant a “preferably preserved” designation. Such a label requires a demolition delay of up to a year in an effort to save it.

This process does not mean Fitzgerald will end up buying the property, which the Shaw family still owns, or that it will be demolished. Anthony Ardolino, the property’s listing agent in Springfield, said he has shown the motel to numerous private parties and one public agency interested in renovating it.

Ardolino said he is unaware of any deal between Fitzgerald and the Shaw family and he did not know about the filing with the city’s building department, though he notes that his listing agreement includes an exclusion that would allow the Shaw family to sell the property on their own.

The property at one time was being actively listed on the Multiple Listing Service at $1.3 million, but is not currently mentioned on that site.

The landmark motel with a storied past was run for more than 60 years by Josephine A. Shaw, who rented units to those down on their luck or suffering from mental illness. Her good deeds were featured in a Los Angeles Times article in 1994.

Shaw transferred the properties to her son, Donald M. Shaw, in 2010, at which time they went on the market. The motel rented out a few of its rooms up to 2010, but is now vacant. The two-story motel is assessed at $460,100 and includes 20 rooms. The six-unit apartment complex and home on Pomeroy Terrace are assessed at a combined $446,300.

Ward 3 residents who live nearby have expressed their opinion about what they’d like to see for the property that sits at an important gateway to downtown and its business district. Some ideas have included a bed and breakfast facility, mixed-income housing development, and mixed commercial and residential development.

Green Street building

Meantime, the commission has already scheduled a public hearing Monday night to determine whether the former Green Street Cafe building at 62-66 Green St. should be preserved or if Smith College can move ahead with plans to tear it down.

The two-story, 7,500-square-foot building has been vacant since January, when the longtime cafe closed. Residence units upstairs have been empty since the construction of Ford Hall, an engineering and science building next door. At that time, they were used as office space by the contractor.

The cafe and the college for years sparred over the property’s lease.

The college wants to demolish the building so it can extend and enhance the landscaping on that side of Ford Hall, spokeswoman Kristen Cole said in an email.

Cole said the college bought the building in February 2007 from the Housing and Economic Resources for Women Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing organization. The college acquired the property in exchange for building a new and enhanced affordable housing development for HER Inc. at 180 Earle St.

The commission must determine whether the building has enough historical significance to designate it “preferably preserved.” Sarah I. LaValley, the city’s conservation, preservation and land use planner, said the building was constructed prior to 1900, though it’s unclear exactly when.

She said a subcommittee labeled the building significant and called for Monday’s public hearing, but committee members have little history to study in this case.

LaValley said the committee thought the main part of the original building — not its front — may have historical or architectural importance, and that it also played a historical role in the life of the community.

“They just felt like they didn’t know enough about it to say it could be demolished,” LaValley said.

A commission member was charged with studying the building’s history and giving a report at the public hearing. That hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in room 10, on City Hall’s second floor.

The college’s request comes just a few months after it tore down a pair of houses nearby at 21 and 27 Belmont Ave. In those cases, the Historical Commission forced the college to delay demolition for a year in hopes the structures could be saved.

The demolitions are part of a larger, campus-wide cost-savings measure that calls for a reduction in the college’s use of space by 5 percent, or 150,000 square feet, Cole said. It’s one part of a $22 million budget reduction plan adopted in 2010 in response to the recession. That plan called for the college to unload up to 20 of its buildings near downtown as one of many measures to save the college money.

Chad Cain can be reached at ccain@gazettenet.com.

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