College, Legion continue years-long partnership

Earlier this year, the College purchased the American Legion building at the intersection of Spring Street and Latham Street. The purchase was a continuation of a long standing relationship between the College and the American Legion. The College and American Legion Post 152 have been in negotiations about properties on Spring Street since the College’s purchase of the Legion’s former building, which stood on the corner of Spring Street and Walden Street.

During the planning for the construction of the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, which is currently located on Route 2, the College purchased a small parcel of land on Spring Street as a potential location for the ’62 Center in 2001. The land belonged to the American Legion, which then owned a building at that location. The College negotiated with the Legion to purchase the building and tear it down under the condition that a new building would be provided. However, due to the intended size of the ’62 Center and the inconvenience of the proposed location, the plot of land on Spring Street was abandoned in favor of a Route 2 location.

“When [former President] Morty Schapiro became president, he decided to move the proposed center to its current location so that it could incorporate the existing Adams Memorial Theatre and more easily accommodate the theatre department,” Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for Public Affairs, said.

The old Legion building had already been destroyed, and a mostly empty parcel of land remains across the street from the Log. The College built the more recent building for American Legion Post 152 at the end of Spring Street in 2002 as part of the deal of the sale of the land the ’62 Center currently stands on; however, for financial reasons, the American Legion was not able to continue occupying the space as of this year, which led to the College’s purchase of the Legion building (“College acquires Legion building on Spring St.,” Oct. 3).

According to the new agreement between the College and the American Legion, the Legion will lease the first floor of the former American Legion Post 152 for the next two years for meetings of its members. The use of the second floor is to be determined by the College and will probably not be decided on a permanent basis in the near future. During the Williamstown Film Festival, held Oct. 17-21, the festival was headquartered on the second story of the building. Currently, no long-term plans for specific businesses on the second floor exist, though the coordinators of multiple single-day events have approached the College about using the space.

Many businesses use College-owned buildings on Spring Street because the College offers affordable rents, according to Fred Puddester, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer.

“We charge what we believe are fair rents and our goal is to have successful, thriving businesses in the properties owned by the College,” Puddester said. “The Legion building was a strategic purchase for the College. The ultimate use of that property or other land the College owns on Spring Street has not been determined.”

According to Puddester, the community has responded positively to the purchase of American Legion Post 152.

The College owns a portion of Spring Street and has recently been looking for opportunities to expand the street’s offerings. This summer, the College began a 90-day lease program in the Denison Gate House, offering an opportunity for businesses to operate on Spring Street on a short-term basis. Lickety Split recently took advantage of this “pop-up” business model, featuring the fare it once offered in its original Spring Street location and still offers at MASS MoCA. It is possible that the former American Legion Post 152 will also become available to “pop-up” businesses (“Lickety Split ‘pops up’ on campus,” Sept. 19). According to Kolesar, the College aims to support businesses on Spring Street that can potentially have long-term benefits for the community.

“Since the College intends to be here for a very long time, we keep an eye out for properties that seem strategic because of location, size and/or other features,” Kolesar said. “The former Legion property certainly qualified as that and so does the more recent one.”

The College owns much of the west side of Spring Street, while most properties on the east side, such as Sweets & Beans and The Purple Pub, belong to Mark Paresky, the son of David Paresky ’60, for whom the Paresky Center was named.

“In terms of the College’s relationship with its commercial tenants on Spring Street, they’ve generally expressed their feeling that the rent charged is reasonable, if not more so,” Kolesar said. “And we’re among those trying to find the mix of tenants that can sustain vitality on the street. The most recent example of that is the experimental pop-up store in Denison Gate House.”