Private Dalton home now open to public as Mill+Main

By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle DALTON — After investing £850,000 in a property, who wouldn’t want to show it off? The partnership that turned a notable private Dalton address into a public one plans to keep the doors of 444 Main St. open, including at a free Aug.

25 bluegrass concert by the Picky B’s. “It’s a fun thing to close out the summer and showcase the property a little bit,” said Caroline Holland, a managing director with Mill Town Capital. “I’m excited to have it open and up and running.” “We’d love to see people use it,” said Alison Peters, executive director of the Dalton Community Recreation Association, or CRA.

Last year, the Pittsfield investment group made the CRA an offer it had no reason to refuse. The outfit, led by Dalton native David Mixer, purchased the former home of John and Judy Kittredge and pledged not only to restore it, but to find nonprofit tenants and to cover building expenses for several years, enabling the CRA to slowly take on responsibility. After months of interior work and landscaping, the property debuted to the public Sunday, attracting dozens of visitors for lawn games, food and drink, craft activities like mask-making in the living room, and music by the Andy Kelly Band and the Limbshakers.

Mill+Main, as the property is now known, provides a new public space that links the Dalton Free Public Library and Town Hall, to the east, with the CRA and a gazebo and fountain across Mill Street to the west. Creating that kind of public campus was part of the motive for Mill Town Capital, which worked with CRA staff to shape a way for the nonprofit group at 400 Main St. to extend its reach. “This opportunity is allowing us to provide so many more services to the community,” Peters said.

The idea guiding use of the new space, she said, is “wellness.” The two new tenants at 444 Main St. are Community Health Programs, or CHP, and Berkshire County Arc, which serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Peters said CHP will operate its wellness programs two days a week in the space.

On top of that, the organization is running a mobile food bank program that sets up a distribution point on the fourth Wednesday of the month in the main CRA building next door. By using a refrigerated truck, CHP provides fresh fruits and vegetables. The distribution is not income-based and is open to all, Peters said.

“They really wanted to expand up here,” she said of CHP’s Great Barrington office. “People line up and go down the assembly line.”

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Berkshire County Arc will use Dalton’s commercial center, with nearby banks, restaurants and library, as a kind of training ground for clients practicing life skills. By design, the spaces occupied by the nonprofit tenants inside the former Kittredge home will be available for other off-hours uses. That frees up quarters in the house for public activity on weekends and evenings.

“We’re trying to keep everything multipurpose,” Peters said. That is part of the new property’s business model — because rental income is needed. “We’ve had a lot of interest,” Holland said.

To inquire about use of the building, people can email Holland at carrie@milltowncapital.com. For now, Mill Town Capital will manage rental access to the building for things like family reunions, parties and weddings. The building has a kitchen that looks out onto a new porcelain tile deck over a garage at the rear.

By remaining involved for several years, Mill Town is providing a safety net for the CRA. No one wanted the project to strain the CRA’s resources. “Mill Town Capital has been absolutely, 100 percent behind this and has supported it completely,” Peters said.

“Completely” means the company will pay the building’s utility and heating costs, as well as insurance and any needed maintenance, in years ahead, after a monthslong renovation handled by Rachiele Builders of Pittsfield. Mill Town Capital bought the home and 2-acre property for £450,000, and invested £400,000 in repairs and improvements. “As in any old home, there’s always more things to do,” Peters said.

Holland said her company’s vision remains the same: to help nonprofit groups stabilize and ensure their operations and to provide a means for the CRA to expand. The building’s transition to CRA oversight will come only after it is clear that rental and special event income can sustain use of the Mill+Main property. Before then, Holland said, people can expect to see the address host events like the lawn game Olympics planned for Sept.

7 — a venture in keeping with what Holland sees as an overarching goal of promoting physical and mental wellness. Meantime, by shifting some CRA offices to the new building, the main CRA building will be able to take on another tenant, Peters said. A cancer-support group called Moments House will move next month from Pittsfield to Dalton, she said.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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