Press Release from The Town of Great Barrington

Two collaborative workspace projects in Great Barrington have received an infusion of more than $170,000 in funding from MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development and finance agency.

A grant of $147,572 will support design, renovation and repairs at the Studio for Integrated Craft in Housatonic -- the former Housatonic Curtain Co. mill at 430 Park St. Costs for architectural, structural and engineering services, along with demolition, machinery removal and roof work be covered by the grant for the property, now owned by Jamie and Asher Israelow. The own and operate a contemporary custom furniture design business.

Jamie Israelow said the state grant means that “our grand vision” for the mill is coming to fruition. The 25,000-square-foot brick factory on the Housatonic River will be reconfigured and improved to accommodate a wide range of professional working artists. One tenant is confirmed, and others are arranging leases.

Another $25,000 grant has been awarded to Berkshire Community College’s Great Barrington campus to pay for a feasibility study, engineering and design costs for a “learning kitchen” at the 343 Main St. campus. The kitchen will serve as an educational laboratory for new academic programming, professional development, workforce training, community engagement and personal enrichment workshops.

“The goal is for BCC’s Learning Kitchen to become central to the community and ultimately, a home to innovative programming that draws audiences from Southern Berkshire County and the surrounding areas” said Jill Sasso Curtis, BCC dean of community engagement, education and workforce development.

Both grants from MassDevelopment’s Collaborative Workspace Program are made directly to the property owners, with support from the town.

The state program aims to accelerate the pace of new businesses and job creation, entrepreneurship and infrastructure improvement for community-based innovation. The grants are included in a $2.2 million statewide award to 28 organizations with innovation and entrepreneurship. The awards were announced this week.

Stephen G. Bannon, chair of the Great Barrington Selectboard, said the grants are “a welcome sign that the state values creative entrepreneurship and small business initiatives here and across the state.”

The grants reflect Great Barrington’s strategic plan, which calls for development of a shared commercial kitchen, redevelopment of the Housatonic mills and marketing of the town’s historical place in industrial innovation, invention and entrepreneurship.

Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said, “These grants will strengthen two of our important sectors of our local economy -- creative arts and small crafts, and food and sustainable agriculture. The specialized educational program at BCC is likely to bring more students to the downtown area and will further establish our town as a center for the innovative food economy. In Housatonic, the growth of this professional artists collaborative will be an additional business anchor to the village. These resources will encourage entrepreneurs to stay in the area.

Since 2016, the Collaborative Workspace Program grants have supported development of more than 375,000 square feet of workshops serving more than 7,000 users, according to the office of Gov. Charlie Baker.