State grants Greenfield Garden Cinemas second extension to install chairlift

  • The Garden Cinemas in Greenfield STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/6/2020 10:20:59 PM
Modified: 2/6/2020 10:20:48 PM

GREENFIELD — The Garden Cinemas is in the home stretch to becoming compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

During a Jan. 27 meeting, the state Architectural Access Board (AAB) accepted a monthly report from the current building co-owners, George Gohl and Bill Gobeille, and granted an extension to them for the installation of a chairlift. The new deadline is March 28.

Last June, Gohl and Gobeille faced potential closure if they didn’t update the mechanical chairlift, which was not accessible to motorized wheelchairs, even though they had made multiple changes to comply with accessibility laws, including adding handrails and changing seating arrangements. The chairlift was installed in the early 1980s.

Since 2012, the AAB — which develops and enforces regulations designed to make public buildings accessible to and safe for people with disabilities — and the Commission on Disability Access in Greenfield have been working with Gohl and Gobeille to make changes to the cinemas to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The original order from the AAB required the new chairlift to be installed by July 19. However, at Gohl’s request, the AAB granted an extension through Jan. 15. Most recently, Gohl requested another two-month extension due to the recent sale of the business to Isaac Mass.

The chairlift installation is already underway, Gohl said.

“Everything is up to Garaventa Lift New England, they’re making the lift,” Gohl said on Wednesday. “The city of Greenfield sent a check in mid- to late December and it takes between eight to 10 weeks to build one, based on their website.”

He said one of the challenges of the project is that the lift is custom-made.

“All the parts related to height have to be custom-made because chairlifts are bigger than they were in 1980s and building codes have changed,” he said. “There is also some electrical work that needs to be done, the walls need to be moved. What sounds like a simple operation has several moving parts.”

The process of installing the lift, which is estimated to be done by the end of the February, includes removing the old chairlift, which is when the contractor, Renaissance Builders, of Turners Falls, can come in and move the walls and conduct electrical work. Once that work is complete, Gobeille and Gohl will paint the shaft and the lift company will install the new lift. Then the lift will be inspected by the AAB.

Though Mass has already purchased the business, he is also set to purchase the building, and a condition of the purchase is the installation and inspection of the chairlift.

“Government bureaucracy runs at a slow pace. We’ve had to jump through a bunch of hoops from getting the roof repaired, and getting the boxes checked off took time. If it wasn’t for the city, we’d still be twiddling our thumbs,” Gohl said. “Unfortunately, there are no funding mechanisms in place and going out of business was a consideration last summer because it’s expensive. We were asking ourselves, ‘Do we drop $40,000 on a roof and on a chairlift when we’re not making money?’ The city stepped in with the offer of the financing so we moved forward. Everyone wants the Garden Cinemas to succeed and stick around.”

In the summer of 2019, a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.com was established to help the Garden Cinemas offset expenses.

“We used the money (roughly $7,400) to go toward expenses related to the roof and chairlift,” Gohl said. “We appreciate it, all the support customers and non-customers gave. We’re eternally grateful.”

When it came to the funding for the construction and installation of the chairlift, Greenfield Community Development Administrator Lindsey Rowe said a commercial improvement loan through the city’s Community Development Block Grant program was signed with Gohl for up to $52,000. A sale or transfer would trigger the loan repayment, Rowe said.

As a condition of funding for the lift provided through the Greenfield Planning Board, Gohl and Gobeille were also required to make roof repairs. Roof repairs were completed in September.

Gohl said the movie theater is in good hands with Mass.

“He’s a local and a big movie lover,” Gohl said. “He’s putting a lot of marketing spins on the theater promotion, and that’s part of the battle is getting people interested in going to the movies.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.




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