The recent closing of the Magnat Machinery Inc., the nearly 60,000
square foot factory building that stretches along the bike path
from North Maple to Bardwell Streets in Florence, is another element
in the slowly changing face of this village.
While the purchase of the Magnat building and its acres of floor
space earlier this year by downtown real estate entrepreneur Eric
Suher for $300,000 presents an opportunity for Florence, the somewhat
sudden shuttering of the business occupying it raises some serious
financial questions for tax-strapped Northampton.
The sprawling Magnat building, when it was occupied by a functioning
industrial machine company, was assessed at $1,117,000 for property
tax purposes. Now it stands empty and silent.
Within the last six weeks an auction was held to sell off the
machinery and heavy equipment in the building and for several
days large flat-bed trucks lugged away dozens of huge industrial
It is not hard to imagine that, Suher, the new owner of the now
vacant structure, will seek a downward revision of the assessment
of the building which in turn will result in lower property taxes,
not a welcome prospect for the city.
A message left for Suher seeking information about his plans
for the building in light of the failure of its only tenant went
unanswered as did a message for the owners of newly-departed Magnat
Machine Tech Inc., Curtis Rutsky and Richard Harley.
Suher purchased the building in February from Magnat Realty
Trust, the successor entity of the business formerly owned and
operated by George Bernard of Holyoke, who died in 1998.
Bernard, who been in the heavy machine business locally for many
years, including operating a plant in Easthampton, had purchased
the 34 Maple St., Florence property in 1976 from National Gypsum
Co., which had operated the Multi-Color Gravure Co. at the site
for many years before moving it to Hatfield. The Multi-Color property
previously had been owned and operated by the New England Fire
In a conversation with downstreet.net earlier this year, Barbara
Bernard said that she tried to operate the Magnat Machinery Co.
for a while after her husband's death but she was "a novice."
She soon decided to sell the business to Rutsky and Harley, which
she did in January, 1999, for $100,000 "for the entire operation,"
she explained, retaining through a real estate trust the physical
structures that make up the factory complex .
Now only a little more than two years later that company had
folded and its equipment and other assets were sold to Mitchell
Machine Inc. of Springfield. Like
Suher, the Bernards are long-time Holyoke residents and their
families are known to each other. "I knew Eric Suher very well,
I really like him," Barbara Bernard said. "I had known him since
he was a kid."
Suher checked out the building, which at that time still had
a tenant, and the deal was concluded, with the actual transfer
of ownership of the Magnat building being made to LHIC, Inc.,
of 47 Jackson St., Holyoke, with which Suher is associated.
"I really gave it to him for a very reasonable price," Barbara
Bernard said of the purchase figure. "I just wanted to get rid
of it. That's the story. He did not say what he wanted to do with
the building. He just loves to buy real estate. He's a very smart
businessman. He's on the board at one of the banks, he's got a
big team, there are fabulous people working for him."
How all of this plays out for downtown Florence only time will