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United Arc to expand, move headquarters

Recorder/Paul Franz
Miskinis Television has clossed and The United Arc has bought the building.

Recorder/Paul Franz Miskinis Television has clossed and The United Arc has bought the building.

TURNERS FALLS — After 61 years based in Greenfield, the United Arc — an organization that assists residents of Franklin and Hampshire counties who have intellectual or developmental disabilities — is moving to a new home on Avenue A.

United Arc purchased the one-story 7,200-square foot property, located at 294 and 296 Avenue A, last month for $430,000. When the organization moves in around May, it will essentially double its usable space — housing many central services under the same roof and giving its employees some relief from the cramped environments in which they once worked.

“This is a bit of a dream for me to be able to do this,” said Executive Director Ed Porter, who has led the organization since 1976.

When Porter first took the job, he was one of 16 employees, providing services to about 40 people in the community.

But the scope of the United Arc’s services has since ballooned: it has 120 employees, with aid reaching between 700 and 800 people each year. Increasing its space was a necessity, said Porter.

About 25 employees will work in the new building. In addition to hosting the United Arc’s administrative staff offices, the Turners Falls property will house the organization’s family support services programs. Employees will be able to sit comfortably and talk with families in a living room setting, said Porter.

The property will also feature a large meeting space, the Arc Common, which hosts daily training sessions and staff meetings. The Arc Common is currently housed in space on Chapman Street leased by United Arc.

And the United Arc plans to use the new building’s basement to store its food pantry.

The 22-year-old Summer Street office that serves as the organization’s current headquarters “was exactly what we needed 22 years ago,” said Porter.

But as its programs expanded, the organization purchased adjacent property on Harrison Avenue 13 years ago, said Porter, with the intent of one day expanding its space. A plan to build a new expansion was scrapped last year, when the project’s cost reached $1.2 million, he said.

After previous owner Miskinis Television clears out at the end of this month, the United Arc will begin renovations. It’s expected to last three months and cost about $250,000, said Porter.

Nichols Vision, which leases about 1,000 square feet of the property, will continue to do so, said Porter.

The United Arc will seek financial sponsors and offer naming opportunities over the next few months. The organization will also be putting its Harrison Avenue property on the market, which includes a house valuing between $175,000 and $200,000, said Porter.

The organization will still hold onto its Summer Street property. Porter said this will allow the organization’s adult services program to utilize the whole space, instead of a small area in the back where employees currently work.

He doesn’t believe the move will hurt the organization’s ability to do its work, supporting people in Franklin and Hampshire counties and the North Quabbin region.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
shores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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