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Northampton commission rules Green Street building can be demolished in six months, will decide about Shaw’s Motel

NORTHAMPTON — The Historical Commission ruled Monday that the former Green Street Cafe building owned by Smith College is “preferably preserved,” delaying its demolition for at least six months.

In a separate decision Monday, the commission found that the landmark Shaw’s Motel is “significant,” setting the stage for a public hearing Nov. 26 in which it will decide whether the building at the corner of Bridge Street and Pomeroy Terrace is historically important enough to delay its demolition.

The commission can delay the demolition of any structure built before 1901 if it decides the building has historic or architectural value, though it cannot stop a building from eventual destruction.

Though most “preferably preserved” tags come with a 12-month delay, the commission agreed to shave that time in half in the case of the Green Street building at 62-66 Green St., said Sarah LaValley, the city’s conservation, preservation and land use planner.

The commission felt the six-month delay reflects Smith College’s long-term desire to tear the building down, which the college indicated it wanted to do several years ago, LaValley said.

The commission found the Green Street structure, built sometime between 1884 and 1896, to be particularly important to the historic streetscape of the area. The structure also has ties to the city’s history. One of its owners, Mary Hunt Warner, is a descendant of two prominent Northampton families.

The two-story, 7,500-square-foot building has been vacant since January, when the longtime restaurant 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 college wants to demolish the building so it can extend and enhance the landscaping on that side of Ford Hall.

Shaw’s Motel, the longtime business at a key gateway to the city’s downtown, 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 last week in which he proposed to demolish the motel at 87 Bridge St. and renovate a six-unit apartment building and a single-family home on Pomeroy Terrace.

The commission Monday, acting through its demolition delay review process, ruled the building has the potential to be historically and culturally significant, though members acknowledged they need more information about it.

The decision means the commission will now hold a public hearing to decide whether the building can be demolished or if it should carry a “preferably preserved” designation. Such a label requires a demolition delay of up to a year in an effort to save it.

LaValley said the commission didn’t have enough information about Shaw’s to allow its immediate demolition. The condition of the building is one of many criteria the commission will weigh at the public hearing.

“The commission needs more time to make sure it’s not a significant building before they allow its demolition,” she said.

The 20-room motel 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. Shaw transferred the properties to her son, Donald M. Shaw, in 2010. The Shaw family owns the motel and related property, which at one time was on the market for $1.3 million.

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