B&L Mobil service station sold, donated to College

After 33 years of business on the corner of Spring and Latham Streets, Arthur “Art” Lafave is in the process of selling the B&L Mobil Station to Herbert Allen ’62. Allen, who recently donated $20 million to Williams College for the construction of a new performing arts center, plans to donate the property to the College.

What the College will do with that piece of property is not known at this time. But discussion in June between college officials, community leaders, business owners and concerned citizens opened the floor to possibilities for use.

The group, of about two dozen, stated as its main concern the rejuvenation of the south end of Spring Street. According to Helen Ouellete, vice president for administration, Williams is concerned with the removal of such a community staple and therefore intent on listening to the thoughts of town residents.

“We wanted to start a conversation,” she said. “Whatever use that lot ends up having is vital to all of us in town.”

The group was led by Bill Rawn, the architect commissioned to design the new performing arts center. The College has also hired Rawn, who has extensive experience in melding colleges and communities together, to design plans once a use is determined for the B&L property.

While ideas in the group ranged from creating a video store to leaving the lot empty, the group agreed upon a building housing mixed retail with upper level residential apartments, which would match existing buildings on Spring Street, according to Peter Fohlin, the town manager.

However, some town officials and residents do not share in this optimistic prognosis. Daniel Gendron, vice-chairman of the Williamstown selectmen, believes that the sale of the Mobil station is just the beginning of the College and its alumni taking over the town.

“It’s the death knell for Spring Street…It’s Herb Allen deciding what Spring Street will be…. This will be Williams’ town,” Gendron said earlier in the summer.

Gendron is not alone either in his criticism of the College’s activities on the end of the street. Zane Lumelsky, leader of the Williamstown Community Association (WCA), a group formed in opposition to the college’s plans to build the new performing arts center in Denison Park, shares Gendron’s concerns.

What’s more, Lumelsky says, the College is freezing him and his organization out of the proceedings. He wrote in a