If You Build It, Will They Come?

Robin First dreams of establishing a new community in North Adams, MA

Adapted from an article that first appeared in MonseyTimes.com

by Alan Zoldan

There is an empty school building in the quaint Berkshire town of North Adams, where New Hempstead residents Norman and Robin First have been making real estate deals for the past 10 years.

Sullivan School is a 58,000 sq. ft., elementary school building with a 1960’s modern modular design that once accommodated over 350 students. It was a fully operating public school as recently as 2015, and it is literally in “teacher-ready” condition, with  an institutional cafeteria kitchen, new roof and classrooms still equipped with desks and blackboards.  It is literally “turn-key.

Situated on a 12-acre plateau with a panoramic view of the Berkshire Mountains, the building is but a short walk away from Windsor lake, a public park offering the community swimming, picnicking and  state of the art playground recreation.

The vacant school building is owned by the city of North Adams and will be offered up for RFP (request for proposal) in the spring – meaning that it can very probably be acquired for a fraction of its true value. And Ms. First, who has a proven talent for sniffing out outstanding real estate bargains, believes that it would make a perfect setting for a religious day school.

“My vision and aspiration,” says Robin, “is that this magnificent  mountain top campus become a shared inspiration attracting young Jewish families. We have found  in all of our time here, The City of North Adams and all of its officials  to be unequivocally warm, welcoming, supportive and unprejudiced  The new Mayor, Tom Bernard, is absolutely thrilled with the idea of a private Jewish school and would love to consider our RFP.

“Norman and I have been fortunate to discover this up and coming area.  Other parts of Berkshire county, like nearby Lenox and Lee are super expensive, as the area has always been reserved for the elite culture and  wealthy artist community.  Properties in North Adams  are  disproportionately low in comparison to other Berkshire county’s towns and an absolute bargain, in comparison to the entire US  country!! North Adams  has  gone undiscovered. and has been undervalued until recently.

“We’ve been investing in this city for 10 years – buying, renovating, renting, and recently selling – learning  as we go, but never disillusioned as we learn and discover more and more with each project... 

Multifamily homes from 2-4 family can be purchased and restored for under $140,000. providing owners with a positive cash flow of 14%. + !  The  net return averages above 14%.  The taxes are ridiculously cheap, even in consideration that the city is overwhelmingly generous in giving back to  its citizens and the infrastructure.  This is another reason we love this city.

Just walking the streets in the  city, near to main street, and Mass Moca, I have taken to keeping a notebook of   the blighted properties.  I then research the owners and make offers.  There are  just too many deals for us alone.  The redevelopment of these areas is trending now, and I want to share these opportunities with others.  I have experience in negotiating  the best deal , based on my knowledge of the area and what the rehab costs will be,and can wholesale them to you. 

Rehabbing the properties has never been streamline.  I can not say we have an established and sound contracting team. Local help is cheap but  comes with its challenges, but the potential to  helping you rehab  is still possible, as we grow.  We will share our resources to help you build.

The time is now for establishing a robust community in the Berkshires. The energy is high, and the potential of the city is soon to explode. “I believe that the upscale demand for affordable Berkshire   homes will soon drive up the prices.  . “This opportunity for acquiring the school and purchasing homes at these very absurd-friendly prices will not last for long.”

Thus, my message is  to young, and young in spirit, creative families with a pioneering spirit:

“My aim is to gather 100 families, ready to plunge  into this exciting, empowering, and  enriching move.  Think investment, think summer get away, dream big; an affordable progressive school in the Berkshires.

There are many reasons why the Berkshires is becoming a trendy vacation destination and vibrant community. Mass MoCA, housed in a huge former mill, is the largest modern art museum in the world, attracting community and guests year long. Parks, lakes, nature trails, and many museums and other cultural attractions are nearby. A bike path and beautifying the walkability of the city is in the works as part of the city’s ”2030 vision Plan”.   Robin First told us, “North Adams is a city with a holistic  vision.  It has the quaintness of the country with the energy of a city.

To learn about more things to do in the area, go to https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionsNear-g41715-d108888-MASS_MoCA-North_Adams_Massachusetts.html

The mission and philosophy of the school has yet to evolve, but my wish is that school should be holistic in learning, including the creative and healing  arts. The vision can envision the school having an adult education component, for Torah learning as well as classes in the creative and healing arts.

Please visit Robin’s  website at Robinfirst.com or email robin@robinfirst.com to learn more.

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