Hadley plans second attempt to sell historic North Hadley Village Hall 

  • The town of Hadley will try for the second time to sell the North Hadley Village Hall on River Drive. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, January 11, 2018

HADLEY — Officials appear ready to take another shot at selling the historic North Hadley Village Hall building and the 239 River Drive property on which it is located.

The Municipal Buildings Committee is recommending the Select Board issue a request for proposals seeking bidders interested in purchasing the two-story building, originally constructed in 1864 as a school, and also featuring a 1950s two-bay garage still used by the Hadley Fire Department for vehicles, emergency communications and equipment.

Select Board member Gerry Devine told his colleagues Jan. 3 that buildings committee members want the town to dispose of the hall, which has about 10,000 square feet of space, including the basement.

“(They’re) saying, ‘let’s get this done,’” Devine said.

While the Select Board appears to support the renewed effort to sell the property — authorized by residents at Town Meeting in October 2014 — members agreed to hold off on any advertising until the town’s “all-boards” meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Hopkins Academy. That will allow members of other town committees to weigh in on the future of the building.

The request for proposal is likely to lead to a similar process to that undertaken in 2016 when there were two bidders for the hall: local property owner and landlord Joel Greenbaum and representatives from the neighboring North Hadley Congregational Church. Greenbaum bid $72,000, while the church bid $2,500.

With Greenbaum submitting the preferred bid under the name Historic Renovations and Rental Properties, officials began discussions with him about a proposal to convert the building into apartments.

Last year, Greenbaum upped the offer to $125,000, with $25,000 of this to be dedicated to ongoing improvements at Zatyrka Park as compensation for the town’s possible loss of recreational land next to the hall.

But the sale didn’t move forward, with Town Administrator David Nixon on Jan. 3 characterizing what happened as “basically (the) deal fell apart.”

Devine said the first attempt to sell North Hadley Village Hall was a learning process for everyone involved. At the time, there were concerns about the extent of the changes that could be made to the building and its uses.

“Everybody had different expectations,” Devine said.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered a contributing element to the village center.

Nixon told the Select Board that there remained uncertainty about the former baseball diamond just north of the hall and whether such recreational land could legally be used for other purposes, including as a parking lot for future apartments, or as the site of another building.

The initial attempt to sell the property was further complicated by plans, approved by Town Meeting in October 2016, to build a new $2.9 million North Hadley fire substation on the former ballfield.

While that had been the preferred location for a satellite site for the department’s operations, the substation project, which is on hold, is now more likely to move forward on the former Hoynoski property acquired by the town last September. The town purchased that 9½ -acre site, at the intersection of River Drive and Stockbridge Street, for $405,000.

The request for proposal for the North Hadley Village Hall will include stipulations about maintaining the historic appearance of the building, and the evaluation criteria for any bids will also consider how long fire vehicles would be able to remain on site, Nixon said.

The use by the fire department is the last municipal purpose for the building, following the departure of the Park and Recreation office, which had used the front section of the building before moving out a couple of years ago. The North Hadley branch of the town library was also located in a converted classroom in the hall from 1902 to 2006.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.