Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Excerpted from Berkshire Trade & Commerce
Article by Brad Johnson
NEW LOOK FOR PEDA PARK
On budget and ahead of schedule, North Adams-based MountainOne Financial Partners has opened the doors to its newly constructed office building in the city of Piftsfield.
Known as the MountainOne Financial Center, the eye-catching facility at the corner of East Street and Silver Lake Boulevard has also gained prominence as the first commercial tenant to establish operations in the William Stanley Business Park, the 52-acre former GE site that has been undergoing remediation and development over the past
“It is a historic milestone for PEDA,” said Cory Thurston, director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, the quasi-public agency formed to oversee conversion of the former GE site into a campus of mixed commercial and industrial enterPrises. “We are grateful to MountainOne for being the first, and believe their presence at William Stanley Park will incentivize others to explore the possibilities there.”
Hoosac Bank, Williamstown Savings Bank and other related financial services. “There is a risk in being the first [business tenant] at William Stanley Park. But we feel it is the right place for us, the right size for what we want to do, and a location that gives us a great amount of visibility in the city.”
Officials with MountainOne said its role as pacesetter at the park works to the advantage of the company and its customers while also supporting the PEDA’s efforts to market the site.
“We’d love to have neighbors,” said Don Keagan, executive vice president and chief operating officer at MountainOne, which is the mutual holding company for Hoosac Bank, Williamstown Savings Bank and other related financial services. “There is a risk in being the fires [business tenant] at William Stanley Park. But we feel it is the right place for us, the right size for what we want to do, and a location that gives us a great amount of visibility in the city.”
In addition to his role with MountainOne, Keagan is also president and CEO of Hoosac Bank, one of the financial institutions that will operate from the new facility. The bank is joined there by Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan and Collins Insurance Agency(CPDC) and True North Financial Services, both of which are subsidiaries of Hoosac Bank.
Also part of the mix there is Stevenson & Co., the long-established Pittsfeild insurance agency that earlier this year was acquired by CPDC (April 2012 BT&C). The Stevenson & Co. identity was retained as part of that merger process, and both agencies will have a presence at the new MountainOne Financial Center.
“We have two insurance brands there with signage for both,” said Keagan, noting that they are working out of the same shared office space in the facility. “Stevenson & Co. is a very well-established agency in the Pittsfield market, and we wanted customers to see that name when visiting the office.”
Keagan Pointed out that the addition of Stevenson & Co. reinforces the broader goal behind the new Pittsfield facility.” This project represents a significant effort to expand our presence in Pittsfield and the central Berkshire market,” he said. “We want to establish more of a customer base there, and our new MountainOne Financial Center is going to play a central role in that process.”
Plans for the new facility were first announced one year ago in April 2011. At that time MountainOne operated a combined office for its various financial services at 141 North St. in downtown Pittsfield. That location, which opened in 2010, includeda a loan origination office for Hoosac Bank as well as offices for CPDC and True North. According to Keagan, MountainOne soon outgrew that downtown location, prompting a search for a new, larger facility to accommodate additional staffing and operations. That search led to the plan to build a new MountainOne Financial Center across town at the William Stanley site. Under this ariangement, PEDA entered into a long-term lease agreement with Pittsfield Stanley Works LLC, a construction firm led by Eric Taylor, for the l.3-acre site facing East Street at the corner of Silver Lake Boulevard. Taylor’s company would then build and own the new facility, which would be leased to MountainOne.
The $2 million project’s significance for PEDA and the Williams Stanley Park was underscored by the sizable turnout at a high-profile ground-breaking ceremony last August. In addition to its practical benefits, the new MountainOne facility was seen as a symbolic first step toward fulfilling the park’s potential as an economic development engine for the city. “Everyone was anxious to see it up and running,” said Thurston.
In the months since then, a number of other potential business and commercial projects have taken shape at the park, including plans for a regional headquarters for an ambulance service and a proposal for a significant retail development on one large section of the site. The status of those projects remains tentative as the players involved continue their due diligence, and as other siting issues are resolved.
Also since last August’s ground-breaking, the new MountainOne facility has drawn the attention of city residents and travelers along the busy roadway – first through the piecing together of its steel-beam infrastructure, which only hinted at the compelling architectural design of the building, and later as that skeleton was enclosed and the unique look of the facility became more evident.
“We wanted this building to be noticed,” said Keagan. “We spent a lot of time with our architect David Westall to come up with a design that would be eye-catching as well as highly functional and flexible in terms of our immediate needs, and for future growth and expansion.”
The 6,850-square-foot, two-story structure is highlighted by an expansive facade of glass panels on its central section facing south along East Street, with a sharply pitched roofline extending downward to the rear of the building, where the main entrance and customer and staff parking lot are located. Attached wings extend from each side of that central section, both of which have the large glass facade to the rear and the roofline pitched lower toward East Street.
Further accenting the angles and other design features is the striking dark-copper metallic color of the building’s aluminum exterior panels. Architect David Westall, whose Williamstown firm designed the building, described it as having “a contemporary industrial look” that also reflects the site’s history as part of the GE complex.
“The combination of the glass and the siding really make the building stand out in what we feel is a very positive way,” said Keagan. “It has a good presence on a stand-alone basis, and that should continue to hold up regardless of whatever else comes along [on other parts of the William Stanley site].”
He noted that, in addition to its visual appeal, the building was designed to achieve high levels of energy efficiency and low environmental impact across a range of criteria.
Range of services
On entering the building from the rear, the central section leads to offices for Hoosac Bank, where commercial, residential and consumer lending operations are based. Keagan noted that the facility does not operate as a traditional full-service branch with teller lines, vaults and other features.
“lt is not a retail branch.” he said. “We primarily wanted to provide a convenient and comfortable location for our customers to work with our lenders.”
He noted that the vast majority of other banking services that customers might need can be handled by the advanced ATM that is accessed through a drive-up loop adjacent to the main building. That facility, which provides detailed records of cash and check deposit transactions, as well as other advanced services, is similar to the remote ATM location that Hoosac Bank established in 2010 near the Pedrin’s Dairy Bar on the south side of NorthAdams. Keagan said that AIM has been very successful in easing some of the customer volume at drive-up teller lines at its main downtown office.
“The sophisticated ATM in Pittsfield can accommodate almost every type of function that customers may need,” he said, adding that it is also a much more cost-effective way to deliver those services.
To the left of the Hoosac Bank section is a wing housing the staff and operations for the two insurance brands. The wing to the right is used by True North (which has both investment services and specialized insurance
Thanks to the mild winter and other factors, the new facility was ready for occupancy was several weeks earlier than anticipated. During the last full week in April the first staffers were settling into their new offices, and on Monday, April 30, the MountainOne Financial Center opened on a full-scale basis. Keagan noted that the North Street office was shut down over the weekend prior to the April 30 opening.
Keagan said the new facility has about l0 to 12 staff members on the insurance side (including those from the former downtown office of Stevenso&n Co), six Hoosac Bank employees, and a range of two to six staffers from True North. Overall the facility can accomodate up to 35 employees, including in second-floor space that has not yet been built out.
If and when MountainOne reaches that capacity, Keagan said the company has options for expansion at the site. “The building was designed to allow for expansion of its footprint if that’s needed down the road,” he said.
For now, Keagan expressed satisfaction with how the new facility turned out. “I’m personally thrilled,” he said. “It’s avery comfortable and inviting space. It feels right.”
To mark completion of the facility, MountainOne will host a grand-opening ceremony on June 11. The project will also be highlighted at a Good News Business Salute hosted by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce on June 27 at Berkshire Hills Country Club. An evening Open House event is being plannedfor some time in August. For details, contact Liz Bissell at 413-663-2114 or Liz.Bissell@mountainone.com.