Facing foreclosure: Pushkin, Arts Block on auction block
A Sept. 22 foreclosure auction for the Arts Block in downtown Greenfield was announced Friday. The building houses a performance space, bar and restaurant, as well as office and studio spaces for rent.
(Recorder/Paul Franz) Purchase photo reprints »
A Sept. 22 foreclosure auction for the Pushkin Gallery, now home to Replay, was announced on Friday.
(Recorder/Paul Franz) Purchase photo reprints »
GREENFIELD — The Pushkin and Arts Block buildings — popular entertainment venues seen as key components of the town’s downtown rejuvenation — are in foreclosure, with the properties set to be auctioned Sept. 22.
The Pushkin, at Main and Federal streets, was bought by Edward Wierzbowski in 2008 after he bought the Arts Block at Main Street and Court Square in 2007.
The auction comes from the foreclosure of more than $3.7 million in loans to Arts Block LLC and Pushkin LLC. The loans are held by the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp., a nonprofit collaborative of banks, mainly focused on providing affordable housing.
The loans were used to renovate both buildings in 2010.
Wierzbowski is confident that he will be able to get the properties out of foreclosure.
“I think there will be a solution,” he said.
He called the situation “very complicated,” and declined further comment Friday.
Wierzbowski paid $390,000 for the Arts Block, according to the Franklin District Registry of Deeds. Built in 1876, the building was formerly known as the Arms Block and past home to Clark’s Sport Shop for many years.
The building now houses a performance space and bar, as well as the Smithsonian Cafe and Chowderhouse. Its upper floors house office, performance and studio space for rent.
Smithsonian owner Peter Langlois could not be reached Friday for comment.
The Pushkin building cost Wierzbowski $500,000. Built in 1911, it is the former home of the Franklin Savings Bank. Wierzbowski managed an art gallery in the Pushkin before he bought the building.
The Pushkin is now home to Replay, which sells used instruments and other secondhand items and also hosts musical performances. The owner, Allan Cadran, was surprised by the news of the foreclosure.
“I was completely caught off-guard,” said Cadran.
Replay has been in Greenfield for more than four years. In June, the business moved into the Pushkin from its former Main Street storefront.
If the building is sold and the new owner doesn’t want to rent to Replay, Cadran said he will find another home for his business in town. For now, he said, it will be business as usual.
Cadran said he’s optimistic that Wierzbowski will be able to pull out of foreclosure.
“I’ve known people that have come up with the money the day before a property auction,” Cadran said.
The purchase prices for the buildings pale in comparison to the cost of renovations.
The $5 million spent on renovations was mostly borrowed money. The work included building repairs as well as the installation of a 100-well geothermal heating and cooling system at the Arts Block, and a similar system at the Pushkin.
These systems earned the projects a combined $74,195 from the federal government.
The MHIC loaned $2.2 million for the Arts Block renovations and $1.5 million for the Pushkin project, according to the Registry of Deeds.
How much remains to be paid is unclear. MHIC staff could not be reached for comment Friday.
The Registry shows another outstanding loan for $1 million, from Greenfield Savings Bank to both the Arts Block and Pushkin in 2010.
State historic tax credits were also used to renovate the buildings. A Main Street facade improvement program spearheaded by the town helped to fix the exteriors of both buildings.
Wierzbowski received $300,000 in state historic tax credits to renovate the Arts Block, and $175,000 of the same for the Pushkin project.
The renovations earned the buildings the Massachusetts Historical Commission Historic Preservation Award in 2012. The nearby Allen Block also earned the award.
The renovations of the Arts Block and Pushkin were part of an effort to revitalize downtown Greenfield. Across the common from the Arts Block, Northampton developer Jordi Herold fixed up the Allen Block, three buildings at the corner of Main Street and Bank Row. They now house Greenfield Coffee, Seymour Pub, Greenfield Community Accupuncture, a lawyer’s office and several apartments.
Herold was surprised by the news of the foreclosure. The Pushkin and Arts Block and the entertainment venues they provide, he said, are an important part of revitalizing Greenfield.
“They occupy two of the four corners of the main intersection in town,” he said. “Those two buildings are signposts for Greenfield and its redevelopment. To me, it’s important that they stay lit. I’m confident that Ed will find a way to keep that going.”