Florence's character is changing. Block sales bring dispensary and rental upgrades.

NORTHAMPTON Changes are coming to Florence Center, including the potential addition of marijuana dispensaries, following buyers buying iconic properties at an intersection between Main and Maple Streets in different deals.

The Goodwin Block at 125 Main St. -located in the heart of Pizza Factory, Full Circle Bike Shop and Tax preparation services, a post office, and much more- was transferred to Tigre Opportunity Fund LLC in March. A father-son group of cannabis entrepreneurs has clarified that if all goes as planned, the pizza joint will be transformed into a dispensary.

“We’re planning on either relocating or closing for good by the end of December,” said Pizza Factory manager Neslihan Ibis, the restaurant’s parent. “We were kind of planning on staying there, but we also understand why (the new landlord) wanted to rent it to someone else”, and there are “no hard feelings” between the two parties.

Ibis stated that it’s “upsetting that we are closing” and that family members cherish the “strong relationships” they have established with their customers over their 15 years as owners.

“Many of them grew up on the pizza and they bring their families now,” Ibis told me.

In the meantime, Blue Mountain Properties LLC has acquired The Parsons Block across the road located at 76-96 Maple St., home of Bird’s Store and Herlihy’s clothing store, in addition to various other businesses as well as a couple of apartments. One resident, Carol Miller, received an email advising the tenant that rent will go up from $550 a month the exact amount she’s been paying for decades — to $1,200 from August. 1 when the new owners begin to finish aging repairs and improvements.

According to the information available in the Hampshire County Registry of Deeds According to records at the Hampshire County Registry of Deeds, the Timothy E. Shea Trust was the owner of both properties. The trust was benefitting the children of the long-time landlord, who had been in the building after his death in the year 2018 and was able to sell the Goodwin Block for $810,000 and the Parsons Block in June for $1.725 million.

Goodwin Block

Tigre Opportunity Fund, the new Goodwin Block owner, is operated by Philip Lipman, a Berkshire County resident who has said that he mostly renovates old apartments, and Tigre Opportunity Fund LLC will be “far from a big, giant conglomerate.” The owner claims he’s striving to bring each unit “up to code and make them safe and beautiful.”

“I get a lot of work done up front and I do a lot of work that other landlords don’t do,” he stated. “I’ll take it in the respect it has earned over time. … It’s not planning to transform it into a huge strip mall that is ugly and smoky.”

Lipman said he was against the idea of lighting that would have made the structure “look like a Blockbuster video or a Starbucks.”

Post Office, currently receiving replacements for its old AC units, has been paying the same rent since.

“It’s clear what the market rent is, and I’m charging dramatically less than that to the existing tenants,” He declared.

At present, the only business that’s planning to go out of business, according to him, would be the Pizza Factory.

Euphorium LLC will hold a public meeting on its proposed dispensary on Monday, August. 15 beginning at 6 p.m. at the parking area behind Goodwin Block. This is a mandatory part of the licensing process for the state. It occurs about a year ahead of an opening date. The meetings must be held before the city can sign an agreement for the host community with the proposed company.

Marco Aranzullo and his father, Richard Aranzullo, both long-time residents in Connecticut, “are a small business duo hoping to bring their mixed skills of fine cigar shops and security services into the regulated cannabis industry” in Massachusetts, the public meeting notice states. “They look forward to providing a more ma and pa type alternative to the smaller Florence community, which will stand out from the plethora of corporate shops in Northampton.”

The petition at Change.org opposes Euphorium in light of several programs that assist people struggling with addiction issues, in addition to the fact that the area “garners many adolescents walking traffic.”

Rick Haggerty, an elementary school teacher of special education and a homeowner of 26 years in Florence, has started the petition. He said there are already 12 dispensaries operating in Florence in Florence and “enough is enough.”

“It is situated near a mental health center and is also near to the daily meetings for recovery in Florence Community Center. Florence Community Center. It is not respectful of families, children as well as those suffering from addiction issues,” the petition reads. “In terms of cannabis access, if those in the Berkshire Hilltowns need access to a dispensary, the site should be located there, or those individuals can utilize the new cannabis delivery services.”

The petitioners also mentioned a potential problem with car parking within the region and the perception of a crowded marketplace for cannabis in Northampton.

Cannabis consulting business Ezra Parzybok, a 20-year Florence resident, is currently working with the Aranzullos regarding their retail business. He has said he’s sympathetic to the concerns of neighbours. However, there are 17 packaged retailers and more than 70 licensed liquor stores that allow consumption on-site in Northampton, and the opponents of marijuana dispensaries usually use a “double standard” about alcohol.

“Kids can sit at the table with their parents while they drink an unregulated amount of alcohol and then drive them home,” Parzybok stated. “We could even open the first boutique wine shop. What if you consider having a Change.org petition be circulated with the same motives?”

He stated that “democratically chosen” local and state laws permit the store to open at the proposed location, far further away from schools than the minimum 500 feet. Dispensaries are also restricted in advertising and marketing and cannot permit items or words such as “marijuana” to be visible from the street.

“For the sake of keeping the opening of this business quiet and less controversial, I would love to be off the beaten path,” Parzybok told reporters, but concealing substances can cause anxiety for users. “I am proud of cannabis as a plant, I am proud of cannabis culture, and I am proud of the regulators” who established the framework for retail sales.

Haggerty claimed Haggerty said that “cannabis like coffee and alcohol, can be personal decisions. I am aware that cannabis can be used for medicinal purposes and caffeine is believed to ease headaches and other attention problems. However, they could also be the cause of addiction. The people who fall in the addiction category should be respected and supported as well as those who are able to receive the benefits of medical treatment.”

The meeting for the community in August. Fifteen can be accessed through Zoom on bit.ly/3S9QoSO. Parzybok announced that an earlier scheduled August. One gathering in JJ’s Tavern’s banquet room JJ’s Tavern banquet hall was canceled.

Leslie Chalmers, a 20-year customer of Pizza Factory, talked to an observer while walking her dog around Florence Center with her friend Michael Goyda. She told the reporter that she’s “ashamed” of the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries within Florence Center.

“The pot shop bubble is ridiculous,” Chalmers declared. “It’s short-term thinking. It’s likely to explode.”

“We’re losing our small-town effect,” Goyda declared.

Several business owners in the area refused to speak to the media for this article. And, on Tuesday afternoon, several businesses were closed.

“It’s great that they’re making the necessary renovations. They need updating,” MurDuff’s Jewelry owner Kurt Brazeau said of the adjacent Goodwin and Parsons blocks. “It’s sad the rent went up so much all at once.”

Brett Constantine was riding his bicycle through the neighborhood when he stopped at Full Circle Bike Shop. He also owns property in the area, and “there’s nothing wrong with charging market rate,” however, he is concerned about the disappearance of community gathering spaces if long-term tenants or residential companies leave.

“There are no rich businesses around here,” Constantine declared.

Parsons Block

dispensary

Jordan Healy, a representative of Parsons Block’s new property management company, Patriot Property Management Group. The company’s business and residential rents will go up from the rates established by Shea, and the necessary repairs and improvements are planned.

“There will be plans to remodel the property and bring the apartments at the market value. There are a lot of vacant apartments at present and we’re hoping to fill those up,” Healy said, adding, “There’s a need for improvement efforts in beautification.”

Blue Mountain Properties and Patriot Property Management Group are located within West Springfield.

Carol Miller, 75, resided in a second-floor apartment until the week of this past when she relocated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, because of the rent increase. Miller’s all-inclusive rental was $550, and even though her apartment isn’t equipped with many facilities and she had to do some work on maintenance and paint herself through the years, she was determined to remain.

“My monthly rent has always been affordable. He never demanded security. He never demanded either the first or the last (month’s rental),” Miller said and acknowledged that Shea could have justifiably charged more in the case of a tenant. “My church is right across the street. Everything I required was within walking distance. Food, doctors, and my doctor.”

Miller said she enjoyed attending community gatherings and parades overlooking Florence Centre windows. A former cook who spent 18 years at the Northampton Brewery, Miller said she was a resident of the Pioneer Valley for 46 years following her time as a member of the Peace Corps and was a “frequent flyer” at Lilly Library.

“I feel secure. People are kind. … The people are friendly…. do not drive, so this is perfect for me.” she told me this week while packing boxes and waited for to receive the news of her brother-in-law from Arizona. He was to arrive in Hartford, hire a moving van, and then collect Miller and take her to stay with relatives within The Great Lakes State.

“I got together with my family and they said, ‘Come on home,'” Miller told me. “That’s a lot of love.”

By Mia

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