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North Adams Developer Says Norad Mill Is Entirely Leased Out To Businesses

Josh Landes
/
WAMC
Guitarist Glenn Jones performs outside the Norad Mill in North Adams, Massachusetts, to celebrate the opening of Belltower Records- a business that will be housed in the historic mill.

The former industrial spaces of North Adams, Massachusetts have been undergoing a transformation. WAMC took a look inside one.

The brick façade of the Norad Mill sits just off the Route 2 corridor west of North Adams, at the foot of Clarksburg State Forest.

“The intent always was that it was going to be a five-year development plan," said David Moresi. “The building itself — a 100,000-square foot former industrial building, mill building, constructed in the 1860s — we knew it would come with challenges from a construction standpoint, and knew it was going to be a rather significant investment, a significant private investment.”

Moresi is the head of Moresi and Associates, the property development and management company that bought what was formerly known as the Excelsior Mill in 2017. He pegs the company’s investment in the building at just over $1 million. That includes the $47,500 purchase of the building from Crane and Company, the Dalton-based paper company that’s been an institution in the Berkshires for over two centuries. Moresi said the purchase came with a commitment “to work hand in hand with businesses and bring jobs — bring businesses, and more importantly jobs, here to the North Adams area. And that’s exactly what’s happened.”

With 35 businesses lined up to lease space in the building, Moresi’s five-year plan is far ahead of schedule.

“Here we are, approximately one year later after the purchase, and — although we haven’t publically announced it, so I guess we’re breaking it with you — we have 100 percent tenant commitment to the building, and that is from basement level all the way up to the fourth floor attic space," Moresi told WAMC, saying the businesses represent 100 jobs in the mill. “They’re coming from anywhere and everywhere and honestly I can tell you they’re coming from coast to coast.”

“I’m now living in Pittsfield, though I’m a transplant from California and before that from England,” said Tina Whitmore. She started Freia Yarns in 2010, sourcing yarn from the Rockies, dyeing it, and shipping it to knitting stores around the world. She ran the company out of West Oakland from 2013 to 2017, but as it became increasingly expensive to live in the Bay Area, she began to explore other options — including the Berkshires.

“A friend of mine bought a house here and I looked at it and it was beautiful, and then I looked at where I was, and I’m like, why am I here? Why am I not there?” she told WAMC.

When Whitmore committed to the move, her next step was to find a place for her business — which led her to Moresi and the Norad Mill. The raw nature of the space and its comparative affordability attracted her, as did Moresi’s welcoming attitude.

“He was open to understanding that it’s a messy business, dyeing yarn, and he wasn’t worried about that,” she said.

Whitmore says she prefers the view of the Berkshire hills to the drug dealers outside her warehouse in Oakland.

“You know, you hear about this New England distance thing, for lack of a better description," Whitmore said. "And I have not experienced that at all in the Berkshires, everyone’s been really welcoming. It’s just been really great.”

She says she’s already hired two locals for her business, and plans to bring on more employees as it ramps up in its new home.

While Whitmore’s journey to the mill took her across the country, other business owners didn’t have to travel quite so far. Two years ago, Cheryl DeMarsico, owner of DeMarsico’s Wine Cellar, and her husband Glen turned their passion for homemade berry wines and mead — made with local honey sourced from Florida Mountain — into a business in downtown North Adams.

“We had first started underneath Grazie, the restaurant on Marshall Street," DeMarsico told WAMC. "We were actually making the wine in the cellar, but we did not have the public in there, we were just manufacturing.”

The Adams residents and Berkshire natives run the business in addition to their fulltime jobs: Cheryl works for the Adams Retirement System as a benefits coordinator, and Glen works for General Dynamics. They were already renting from Moresi, and saw the Norad Mill as the logical next step for their business.

“We wanted to bring our wine out to the customers and have a bigger customer base, and have the people in North Adams experience a tasting room,” she said.

Morsei says he couldn’t be happier with the spread of leasers that have now fully populated the mill, from gem dealers and golf clinics to the Massachusetts Department Of Transportation and Berkshire Health Systems.

“I see this as a present day mall, for lack of a better word," he told WAMC. "But it’s the mall for this new era that we’re into. I mean, it’s not like the mall of the 80s. When everything’s up and running, someone could conceivably come and bring their kids to dance and then they could walk about the different floors and spend a couple hours there.”

The building is still under construction, but Moresi says he expects all 35 businesses to be fully installed in the old mill by the end of the year.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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