Courthouse moving to Munson St.
Recorder/Franz Greenfield Corporate Center entrance on Thursday. Purchase photo reprints »
CORRECTION: An article in Friday’s Recorder incorrectly stated that the state Department of Employment and Training — now the Department of Career Services — had moved. It is still at One Arch Place in Greenfield.
GREENFIELD — The state plans to move the courts now in the Franklin County Courthouse to a Munson Street office park during the facility’s planned reconstruction beginning this coming winter. The project is projected to take 2½ years, although there is informal speculation that it could take considerably longer.
The Department of Capital Asset Management announced Thursday that it had selected about 46,000 square feet of the former Phoenix Corp. headquarters as the home for all court functions other than the Registry of Deeds while the $60 million project is under way.
The 30-month project includes about six months for demolition and is expected to begin in March, so relocation of approximately 66 courthouse employees to the Greenfield Corporate Center is projected to take place in a matter of weeks before work on the Main Street facility begins, according to DCAM Commissioner Carole Cornelison.
The Registry of Deeds will be housed separately in one of three spaces still being decided by DCAM in conjunction with the Secretary of State’s Office. The agencies are weighing possible sites at Greenfield Community College Foundation’s downtown center, the Main Street building where Central Appliance was located, and developer Mark Zaccheo’s rehabilitated building at Olive and Hope streets.
Although there has been speculation by current Register of Deeds Joseph A. Gochinski that the registry would be moved permanently to a separate space of roughly 3,000 square feet, Cornelison said that “long range, the plan is to move back into the revitalized new facility.”
DCAM spokeswoman Alex Zaroulis said no decision has been made yet on where the registry will be relocated, but Secretary of State spokesman Brian McNiff said a decision could be announced next week.
The lease for the Munson Street space will total $1.7 million a year, said Cornelison. The other alternative, at the former Carr Hardware building on Main Street, would have cost an additional $8.9 million over three years, she said.
“That is not what we deemed reasonable,” Cornelison said, explaining that the state’s initial idea had been to extend the lease for the building adjacent to the space it now rents for Greenfield Juvenile Court and the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, but that landlord Billy Walker of Dyersburg, Tenn., had proposed terms that were “unreasonable,” leading to a formal request for proposals.
Downtown business owners had expressed dismay when the state agency first announced in July that it was considering the Munson Street site, about two miles from the downtown courthouse location, because of lost daytime activity in the commercial district.
“I’m disappointed,” said Greenfield Business Association Kate Snyder, who said that businesses and the mayor’s office had lobbied to keep the trial courts downtown. “It’s unfortunate; it cancels out some of the work the state has done to revitalize the downtown.”
Franklin Regional Transit Authority now runs eight buses a day to the Munson Street campus. FRTA Administrator Tina Cote said that increasing that service is a possibility, but she said no one has asked for that increase, and she wasn’t made aware that the Munson Street site had been selected.
While Snyder said trying to mitigate the effects some officials had predicted would be a “disaster” and “devastating,” she said the association hasn’t yet wrestled with what kind of mitigation steps could be taken to limit the damage to the local economy.
“There’s talk of a shuttle bus,” Snyder said, to return courthouse workers to the downtown during the lunch hour, “but I’m not sure how helpful that would be. It’s hard to know if it would help.”
Franklin County Chamber of Commerce President Ann Hamilton said that although the state’s decision “was not what I’d hoped,” the economic damage will be offset by having construction crews working on the project for years.
Cornelison said that project is tentatively scheduled to begin in “beginning to mid-March,” with the move to temporary quarters taking place “a matter of weeks” beforehand, once a lease is signed with owners of the Greenfield Corporate Center and renovations there are done to accommodate the court facilities.
Robert Pyers, the town’s economic development director, told The Recorder in July, “If the state decides to relocate the courthouse outside of the downtown area, it will be a disaster for Greenfield.”