Moody Center plans to restore buildings, construct housing, welcome center in Northfield

  • A rendering of the planned development by The Moody Center in Northfield. Moore Cottage on Moody Street can be seen to the far right. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

  • The Moore Cottage, located on Moody Street in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • The Moore Cottage, located on Moody Street in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2020 5:43:46 PM

NORTHFIELD — The Moody Center and Clockwork Architecture have announced a potential $12 million renovation of the historic Moore Cottage and old bookstore on Moody Street, and the construction of housing units and a new welcome center.

James Spencer, vice president and chief operations officer with The Moody Center, said the center will present a plan for the project, which would use a mix of outside funding, to the town of Northfield in the near future. While organizers have held preliminary discussions with abutters of the cottage property and have expressed interest to the Northfield Planning Board, the project does not currently have specific dates for initiation and completion.

A small, informational webinar regarding the Moore Cottage project was held with property neighbors Nov. 5. Planning Board Chair Stephen Seredynski said he does not know how soon the board will schedule a public hearing with The Moody Center. He noted the board had approved The Moody Center’s request to turn Revell and Holton halls into a boutique inn over the summer. Spencer said the center is waiting for word from historical and state agencies before continuing next steps of this project.

The new renovation project will be true to the original Queen Anne style architecture, Spencer said in a press release, and will include the old bookstore to make way for a new welcome center, meeting rooms, and hospitality and lodging space. Moore Cottage itself would be constructed to hold nine rooms and 13 beds. He said the plan is to renovate the bookstore to be able to hold up to 90 people for conferences or retreat events.

The project will also include construction of energy-efficient row homes to meet demand from growth in The Moody Center, Thomas Aquinas College and the area’s aging population. Spencer said there will be about 24 units that would be “for sale properties.”

With the Schell Bridge reconstruction moving forward and plans for historic renovations of Revell and Holton halls, The Moody Center is pleased to contribute to the ongoing renewal efforts in Northfield.

“We have known from the beginning that we would need to address the buildings on campus and have taken the time to consider how best to serve our aims as a ministry organization, as well as benefiting the town of Northfield,” Emmitt Mitchell, president of The Moody Center, said in the press release.

Mitchell and Spencer said the center is following in famed 19th-century evangelist and campus founder Dwight L. Moody’s footsteps by “designing a campus experience that will appeal to those interested in New England historic sites, as well as Christians who have some connection to Dwight Moody.”

In addition to evangelistic campaigns in Central and North America and the U.K., Moody held conferences in Northfield to prepare and encourage Christians beginning in the 1880s. Northfield’s town website references the positive economic impact of the summer conferences, stating, “the influx of visitors led to the development of the town as a summer resort, especially after the opening of the Northfield Hotel in 1887.”

“There is strong interest in New England more generally and Massachusetts in particular for historic sites of religious significance,” Spencer said in the release. “We have an important site that will draw people to the property. Our visitors will hear the story of D.L. Moody and his gospel message.”

Mitchell is anticipating growth for The Moody Center that will “ultimately benefit the surrounding community.” He said the hope is that other businesses will benefit from the ministry.

Christian Arnold, whose company Clockwork Architecture is serving as the lead architectural and development firm on The Moody Center’s projects, said he is “excited to see the community working together to showcase the beauty of the area.”

The Moody Center has already invested heavily in preserving the buildings and the property, particularly D.L. Moody’s Birthplace, and has planned investments in the memorial site known as Martyrs Grove. Plans to develop the campus are designed to ensure that the buildings and property can be sustained long-term, Arnold said, as “allowing the property to deteriorate doesn’t benefit the community or The Moody Center.” Mitchell said he wants to see The Moody Center be a good neighbor in Northfield, adding that they “have a vested interest in Northfield remaining a serene, historic place.”

“We don’t want to change the character of Northfield,” Mitchell said in the press release, “even as we do what we need to do to make The Moody Center successful.”

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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