Can private sector save the Mohawk?

Like North Adams, the community in which it is located, the Mohawk Theater has long been regarded as down and out. But as the town tries to reinvent itself as an arts and tourism destination, the marquee of the shuttered Mohawk, one of the last art-deco style movie houses in the nation, continuously beckons.

The Mohawk opened in 1938. It had a single balcony, 1,200 seats, and showed films on a single screen. As our movie-viewing habits shifted to the multiplex, the Mohawk sputtered in the 1980s and then shut down for good in 1991. It is largely a shell now with no walls and relatively little plumbing. But the marquee out front looks good, still beckoning.

There have been countless discussions over the years about what to do with the Mohawk, but nothing has ever worked out. Reestablishing it as movie house seems improbable. Restoring it as a theater for plays and other live events is hard to envision because of the lack of backstage space and competition from nearby venues at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams and a theater in Pittsfield 30 minutes away.

Former North Adams mayor John Barrett, who led efforts by the city to acquire the Mohawk, invested a lot of time and money (some of it donated by the Walmart on the outskirts of the city) in the venue, convinced it was critical to the future of the town. His successor, Richard Alcombright, tried to broker a partnership with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, but nothing ever materialized.

“The Mohawk has, in a sense, become the mythological unicorn — a legend no one has quite figured out how to capture,” said a recent story in iBerkshires.com.

The current mayor, Thomas Bernard, has decided the best course of action is to put the theater up for sale and see what the private sector is interested in doing with it. “Even if the result is not viable, at least we can’t say then that nobody has done anything,” he said.

Still, for a building that’s been empty for almost 30 years, there’s a lot of sensitivity about what will happen to it. The current plan is for the City Council to declare the theater surplus municipal property, which will allow Bernard to put out a request for proposals and pick whichever one he likes, as long as the bid price is above the assessed value of $446,400.

But this week a subcommittee of the City Council recommended that two conditions be placed on the sales process. One condition would require the mayor to present each private sector proposal to the City Council, so members of the public could weigh in. The second condition would require the winning bidder to retain the theater marquee, even if the building is no longer being used as a theater.

City Councilor Benjamin Lamb thought the restrictions were appropriate. “The committee felt these restrictions provided structure, transparency, an opportunity for community feedback at major points in the process, and maintained the most core and important part of the building, without becoming over-restrictive to a point that it would prevent [responses] from coming forth,” he said.

The marquee continues to beckon.

BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

Joshua McCabe of Endicott College offers some tips on how to fix the mistakes of welfare reform. (CommonWealth)

Ahead of another influx of tourists that comes with summer on Cape Cod, state officials are providing six outer Cape towns with public safety money following increased shark sightings and a deadly attack last September. (Brockton Enterprise)

Reps. Kay Khan and Josh Cutler defend the conversion therapy legislation as very narrowly drawn. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Acting Town Administrator David Flaherty has resigned from his position at the Raynham Board of Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday. His resignation will take effect April 19. (Brockton Enterprise)

A vote on proposed urban renewal plans for Fall River’s downtown and waterfront areas will go before the City Council for approval, but city officials and consultants working on the project warn that time is playing a factor after a year of development. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Three months after taking the gavel as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, US Rep. Richard Neal has asked the IRS for six years President Trump’s tax returns. (Boston Globe). As this recent CommonWealth profile of Neal explained, the Springfield pol has been under intense pressure to exercise the little-known authority of his committee to obtain any filers tax returns.

Some investigators involved with the report compiled by special counsel Robert Mueller say it is more damaging to President Trump that indicated by the four-page summary released by Attorney General William Barr. (New York Times)

The US House of Representatives subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States is weighing in on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, introduced by Rep. Bill Keating. The rift between Massachusetts and Rhode Island over the prospect of a Mashpee Wampanoag casino near their shared border was aired out Wednesday before congressional leaders. (Cape Cod Times)

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin has more than a passing concern about President Trump’s fitness for office. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg brings his buzz to Northeastern and urges millenials to get involved in politics. (CommonWealth)

A Globe editorial criticizes a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee edict banning its vendors from working with candidates challenging incumbent Democrats in primaries.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Despite all the effort to build more housing, low-income renters in Massachusetts are facing a shortage of options, a new report says. (State House News)

Rev. Mariama White-Hammond says the private sector needs to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory by upping the wages paid to workers of color. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION

State officials are pulling a question from the 10th grade MCAS exam that asks students to write an essay from the perspective of a white character in the novel The Underground Railway who uses derogatory language toward runaway slave. (Boston Globe)

The presidents of Simmons and Regis colleges urge state regulators not to overreach in developing new regulations covering the fiscal health of higher education institutions in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

Vittoria Pacifico, who was brought in to lead Salem High School after the abrupt resignation of Principal Jennifer DeStefano, is not licensed as a principal but Superintendent Margarita Ruiz said that is a non-issue because of her experience, which includes being principal or president of four private schools. (Salem News)

Dozens of parents say their children have been traumatized by two third-grade teachers at Eastham Elementary School, and their complaints went undocumented for years. (Cape Cod Times)

TRANSPORTATION

Sen. Barry Finegold wants to extend the hours when Interstate 93 drivers can travel in the breakdown lane, telling Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack it would help ease congestion. (Salem News)

The MBTA wants to hear from the public about their preferred replacements for the Mattapan trolleys that date back to 1955. Erik Stoothoff, the MBTA’s chief engineer, said completely new cars or Green Line trolleys are the most likely options. (WGBH)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

NOAA Fisheries is cutting in half the allowable amount of commercially fished spiny dogfish, which are mostly eaten in Europe. (Gloucester Daily Times)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Matt Maddox, the CEO of Wynn Resorts, comes under fire from skeptical members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission during the second day of hearings into the suitability of the company to retain its casino license in the wake of Steve Wynn’s alleged sexual misconduct. (CommonWealth) The Globe’s Larry Edelman says it’s unrealistic to think state regulators will strip Wynn Resorts of its license and argues the state should fine the company $100 million and move on.

Northampton collects more than $700,000 in marijuana tax revenues covering a period of a little more than two months. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Joseph Kriesberg, the president of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, suggests some of the taxes collected from casino gambling could go to help small business. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Suffolk district attorney’s office has seen a recent uptick in charges of assaulting a police officer, one of 15 lower-level offenses new DA Rachael Rollins said she would choose not to prosecute. It’s not clear what’s behind trend. (Boston Herald)

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin drew a crush of media and celebrity gawkers as they appeared in federal court in Boston on charges of using their wealth to gain even more privilege for their privileged children in the college admissions game. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

A Georgia House Republican files state legislation to establish a code of ethics for journalists. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Media Nation’s Dan Kennedy discusses a recent Pew Research Center report on Americans perceptions of local news in their communities.