The burned-out hulk of an apartment building at 246 Houghton Street in North Adams is coming down two years after it was severely damaged by fire.

According to a story reported on by, the Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday approved plans to replace the structure with a new six-unit apartment building at the request of owner Garabed Setrakian of Cambridge.

Setrakian purchased the property last April in hopes of restoring the 1870 building but found it too far gone.
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Setrakian recently had this to say:
I definitely will make a gigantic improvement to this corner, which used to be a very valuable part of North Adams. My initial intentions were definitely to revive this building and bring it to its former glory. Unfortunately I missed my chance. I may have been too late because it had already been abandoned from the fire and unfortunately no action was taken by the previous owner. I'm vigilant for change, I'm vigilant for doing whatever it takes to make the city a more active ... I think that this is going to be a dramatic improvement.
Setrakian said he had spoken to many of the neighbors about his plans and that the response has been positive. The building is not only a massive eyesore, it's also a health hazard, he said.
The developer, who came from Canada about 25 years ago, said he felt a connection to North Adams because it reminds him of a valley in Jasper, Alberta. A friend had also invested in the area and had recommended he do as well.
The plans presented by Bill Bonnett of Guntlow & Associates presented initial plans for a more contemporary building built within the same footprint but slightly smaller in size.
The building is in a nonconforming lot and so required the variance because the two-year limit since the fire had elapsed; if renovation work had commenced within 12 months of a fire, no variance would be needed.

"The existing nonconformities are also to be sustained although they will be made more in conformance where possible," according to the application.

But the nonconformity that took up much of the discussion at Monday's meeting was the lack of parking spaces. By code, each unit is required to have two parking spaces but 246 Houghton had long been grandfathered.

Bonnett's presentation showed spaces for six vehicles but said it was possible one or more could fit into the gravel space on the Brooklyn Street side. Two spaces are planned for the Houghton side.

Setrakian said the units were being catered more to professional singles or couples looking for short-term rentals as Airbnbs, although some could be set aside for longer-term rental. Bonnett said tenants would likely be the generation more interested in being in the city and of a "green" consciousness when it comes to travel.
Building Inspector William Meranti said he was "enthused and happy" to see something being done with the property and noted, "although it is a concern, six spaces would be more now than historically it's ever had before."
The board voted unanimously to approve the special permit, to be reviewed in six months.
For more on the story, please visit's website here.

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