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Remaking History

The Franklin Community Co-op (FCC) announced on Nov. 16 that the former Wilson’s Department Store will be home to 65 mixed-income rental units and an expansion of the Green Field Market food store on the first floor and in the basement, under a plan announced last week by the city of Greenfield, MassDevelopment, and the Community Builders (TCB).

Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said that housing and maintaining a strong retail presence on Main Street have always been among her top goals since she took office.

The residential redevelopment of the historic property will be financed in part by a combination of federal and state low-income housing tax credits, new-market tax credits, and historic tax credits, pending approvals from relevant state agencies.

The city of Greenfield is also investing $300,000 in funds that must be used to create affordable housing. Wedegartner said the money comes from the city’s sale of the lease on another downtown housing development, the Mill House Apartments.

“Mixed-use buildings featuring housing and retail are a main ingredient for creating vibrant, walkable downtown neighborhoods.”

“Mixed-use buildings featuring housing and retail are a main ingredient for creating vibrant, walkable downtown neighborhoods,” added Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, who serves as chair of MassDevelopment’s board of directors, in a news release.

The new placement of the retail store allows for new, full-service bakery, deli, meat, and seafood departments, as well as a large, on-site community room for public use and reservations for community gatherings, workshops, and events.

The co-op supports more than 220 local suppliers, including 40 local farms, producing $2.6 million in local sales in 2021 with two locations: Green Fields in Greenfield and McCusker’s Market in Shelburne Falls.

The 65 mixed-income rental homes for families will be one-, two- and three-bedroom units with a blend of workforce and income-adjusted units. Residents will be close not only to the co-op’s grocery store, but to healthcare, a pharmacy, the YMCA, the public library, and open green space.

“In addition to creating much-needed, high-quality housing in Greenfield, relocating and expanding Green Fields Market will provide the community with access to healthy food in an area of Greenfield currently without a full-service grocery store,” said Rachana Crowley, director of Real Estate Development at TCB. “We’re proud to be a part of this team which will create new housing, employment opportunities, and invest in a strong and robust Main Street in Greenfield.”

Wilson’s had long been an anchor downtown. The historical Wilson’s building was built in 1882 and was one of the last independent, family-owned department stores in the country before closing in January 2020. The building had supported businesses for 137 years before the closure.

“We’re thrilled we’ll remain a downtown anchor business,” said KC Ceccarossi, Franklin County Co-op board vice president. “We’ve been here for the last three decades, and it’s a critical part of our identity. We see this as such an important moment for the city. There aren’t a lot of towns that can boast a community-owned, full-service grocery store on Main Street.”

Owners of three businesses currently leasing space in the building were informed on Nov. 16 of the sale and told they needed to vacate by next spring, creating mixed emotions.

Kelly Archer, who has owned Lucky Bird on Main Street for five years, said she wasn’t sure yet what her next move was. “My time here has been awesome,” she said, but added that she needed time to process the information she’d been given earlier in the day.

Wedegartner said that the city and its partners will work with the businesses through the transition.

“We want them to stay in Greenfield,” the mayor said. “All of them — they’re all really important to downtown Greenfield. I’m hoping we will find each and every one of them the spot they want on Main Street to continue the business that they have.”

MJ Adams. Greenfield’s director of Community and Economic Development, said she was glad that, after a year of working out the details, the city was able to reveal the partnership, adding that “it’s going to be transformational to our downtown.”

Construction on the co-op is expected in 2023 and 2024, and the residential construction by 2025 and 2026.


Kailey Houle can be reached at [email protected]