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Troubled property no more: Castle Street firehouse renovated

Earlier this month, after years of controversy over the building, and nearly two years after the Federal Trade Commission case, Warrior Trading announced that it was nearing completion of its restoration project.

Great Barrington — After nearly four years of renovation work, the Castle Street firehouse is will soon be open for business.

The firehouse was built in 1898 and for many years was home to both the town’s fire and police departments. The police department relocated to South Main Street in 1999, while the fire department relocated to a new building on State Road in 2010.

The building’s recent history has been fraught with troubles. In May 2014, the building was purchased by Castle Street LLC and its principal owner, Thomas Borshoff, from the town for $50,000. The purchase and sale agreement for the property was dated back in 2012, and it took 18 months of negotiations for the purchase to become official.

Borshoff proposed for the property to “become a vocational education center, with the centerpiece being a culinary school and a restaurant, with an al fresco café on the west side.”

“Tom is super committed to using local architects and contractors for this restoration,” then-Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said just after the sale. “This is going to become a very important asset for the local community.”

Flash forward to January 2016, when The Berkshire Edge published an article with the headline “Was Castle St. firehouse sale a boondoggle? Owner, mum on why no renovation, collects town rent.” The article reports that renovation work had not been done as promised and that the town was paying to rent part of the building.

In August 2019, The Berkshire Edge reported that Ross Cameron, owner of Warrior Trading in Great Barrington, would be interested in purchasing the building from Borshoff.

In January 2020, The Berkshire Edge reported that the building was purchased by Castle Street Firehouse, a limited-liability corporation created by Cameron. In a recent press release, however, Warrior Trading stated that the building was purchased by Cameron and his wife Lauren Cameron.

Over the past four years, redevelopment work has proceeded on the building. As work continued, in April 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) required Warrior Trading and Cameron to pay $3 million back to customers.

A press release issued by the FTC stated:

The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on the Warrior Trading day trading investment scheme for making misleading and unrealistic claims of big investment gains to consumers. The FTC alleges that Warrior Trading and its CEO, Ross Cameron, used those claims to convince consumers to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a trading system that ultimately failed to pay off for most customers.

As a result of the FTC’s case, Warrior Trading will be required to pay $3 million to refund consumers and will be prohibited from making baseless claims about the potential for consumers to earn money using their trading strategies.

Refunds were issued by the FTC starting in January 2023.

Earlier this month, after years of controversy over the building, and nearly two years after the FTC case, Warrior Trading announced that it was nearing completion of its restoration project. In the press release, the company announced that Warrior Trading will use the building as its offices, and that Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center would be a tenant.

The company stated that the building went through a “multi-million-dollar” refurbishment, but did not specify how much money was used for the project. According to the press release, the renovations included a new roof, new windows, brick repointing, steel girder stabilization, environmental remediation, and renovations for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance.

Despite Borshoff’s purchase of the building back in 2014 and promises of renovation work, in a recent interview with The Berkshire Edge, co-owner Lauren Cameron said that the building was “in really terrible shape” when she and her husband purchased it. “We purchased it a month or two before the pandemic happened back in 2020, so it was interesting timing,” Cameron said. “The first thing we did was to stabilize the building. We had to do a complete renovation where we worked out all of the plumbing and electrical work. Many of the bricks in the building needed to be repointed. It all needed quite a bit of work.”

Cameron said that, previously, Warrior Trading’s office was located at 47 Railroad Street and had a view of the old firehouse. “We saw that the building was in rough shape, and we started to inquire to see who owned the building to see if they wanted to sell it,” Cameron said. “Both me and my husband have a background in the visual arts, so we found the architecture and the building itself to be very interesting. We just saw this building that was crumbling and wanted to jump in. We also thought it would be a great place for our business to be on the second floor.”

Cameron said that the first floor of the building will be rented out by Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center.

When asked about what, exactly, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center would be doing at the building, Executive Director Janis Martinson could not provide specifics. “We’re looking forward to being able to give more news about that in the future because we still don’t have possession of the space yet,” Martinson told The Berkshire Edge. “Once we’re able to get in there and plan, we’ll be able to say more. But the gist of it is to extend what we’re doing already. We want to do more for our community, more education—programming more for the people who come and use our space as cultural presenters. We’re looking forward to more social space, as our theater has very little room for people to gather outside of the main auditorium. That’s what we’re really looking for.”

In an email after the interview, Martison wrote:

With a beautiful exterior and a freshly renovated interior, we have the opportunity to create a community platform that will serve multiple purposes in an intimate, flexible, informal, and comfortable environment. Once the owner secures a certificate of occupancy, we will begin the process of securing our own licenses and permits for the uses we hope to make of the space. That and construction will take time, some of it unpredictable.

Because so much is still in process, it would be premature to predict an opening date. When the time comes, we expect to use this space to branch further into our community and to broaden the span of performances we are able to offer year-round in the Berkshires.

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