College considers hotel on Spring St.

With the many vacant spaces on Spring Street, the College is considering establishing a boutique hotel at the end, near Tunnel City Coffee. Since January of this year, talk of a College-owned high-end hotel replacing the American Legion Post at the corner of Spring Street and Latham Street has been circulating.

“We are just beginning the process to consider a new ‘New England style’ Inn on Spring Street,” said Fred Puddester, vice president for Finance and Administration. At the moment, nothing has been decided with regard to the future of the American Legion Post and property. However, an outside consultant hired by the College has suggested that establishing a boutique hotel on the property would be profitable for both the College and Williamstown and recommended an inn with about 60 rooms. While the accommodations would be primarily targeted to host “numerous groups, including parents, alumni and visiting speakers,” according to Puddester, a large part of these calculations also relies on the expected influx of tourism that the revitalized Clark Art Institute, currently undergoing a three-year, $145-million renovation, will generate when it opens in the summer of 2014.

Laurie Klefos, president of the Berkshire Visitors Center, sees the hotel as part of a promising trend of growth in tourism throughout the Berkshire area. “The Berkshire Visitors Bureau is always pleased to see an investment in tourism and the tourism industry in the Berkshires,” Klefos said. “We have been seeing a lot of growth in the past few years, especially since the economy turned around.”

Klefos predicts that the Clark will not only increase the quantity of tourism but also its variety, namely a breed of international, art-loving sophisticates. The potential existence of a boutique hotel would cater to these patrons more adequately than any other accommodation in the area. “We see a boutique hotel as something that would be different, especially in Williamstown,” said Klefos. “The attractiveness of Williamstown as a visitor destination has been growing, especially with the expansion of the Clark, so timing would be perfect.” If all goes to plan, the hotel will be a key part in the planned reinvigoration of Spring Street and Williamstown in general.

That is not to say, however, that a plethora of accommodation does not already exist in Williamstown. Rather, there are around 12 to 13 accommodations available around the vicinity of the college. The most visible of these is the Williams Inn, the mortgage of which the College purchased about three years ago and is leasing out until 2039.

Carl Faulkner, owner of the establishment, is perhaps less enthusiastic about the developments than Klefos is. “I’m not against it,” Faulkner said. “I just have to make sure my product gets better.” The Williams Inn has undergone several renovations, additions and refurbishments in recent years, such as the $3 million addition of 25 extra rooms 10 years ago. Although he is looking forward to the reopening of the Clark, lamenting the loss of tourism its renovations have prompted, Faulkner seems doubtful of the touristic appeal of the proposed location at the end of Spring Street “I don’t think tourists are going to find too much at the end of Spring Street,” Faulkner said.

As this idea has been in development for less than a year, the College does not intend to act in the near future. “We need to discuss the proposal on campus before moving forward,” said Puddester. “We are meeting regularly with the operators of the Williams Inn and are studying our options.”

 

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