Scarafoni Associates bought the Dowlin Block in 1972, from North Adams Realty Trust, a partnership of local businessmen. In the past few decades, the building has housed street level stores, and a mix of professional offices, small businesses, and single-occupancy-style apartments. In recent years, the storefronts have been occupied by a mix of often short-term stores and businesses, and seasonal art galleries. Occupancy of the upper five floors has steadily declined. Several years ago, occupants of most of the upper floors were asked to relocate, so that plans could be made for the demolition of the rear section and the renovation of the remaining area. In 2013, Scarafoni Associates, which had its North Adams offices on the second floor, moved up the street, and the entrances to the upper floors were locked.
David Carver, managing partner with Scarafoni, recently described to me the renovation plans.
“We will remove the rear section to make the building rectangular. This will reduce the size from about 60,000 to 40,000 square feet. This will re-balance the parking need with the size of the building. Instead of about 65 tiny obsolete apartments and 12 parking spaces, we will have 25 modern apartments and 25 private parking spaces, an absolute requirement for modern downtown housing in a small town. We will preserve the façade of the remaining structure, which is an important piece of historical architecture.”
I asked Carver if the remodeling of the interior for larger apartments will necessitate the removal of much of the historic woodwork.
“I prefer to keep as much interior detail as possible. However, how much is kept depends on building codes relating to fire safety, which is outside of our control.”
At my request, Carver let me into the building, both the front section that will be renovated, and the rear section that will be demolished. I roamed its rooms and hallways with my camera. It was dark and spooky. I could not use the elevator, so I carefully made my way up and down the old stairway that so many thousands of people walked before me.