Ja’Duke eyes expansion to Greenfield

The former Greenfield Community College building at 270 Main St. in Greenfield might soon be converted into Ja’Duke Inc.’s newest location for performance art, driver’s education and a preschool center.

The former Greenfield Community College building at 270 Main St. in Greenfield might soon be converted into Ja’Duke Inc.’s newest location for performance art, driver’s education and a preschool center. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-14-2024 5:19 PM

Modified: 05-14-2024 6:51 PM


GREENFIELD — The former Greenfield Community College building at 270 Main St. might soon be converted into Ja’Duke Inc.’s newest location for performance art, driver’s education and a preschool center.

Ja’Duke owners Kimberly Williams and Nicholas Waynelovich, who operate the Ja’Duke Center for the Performing Arts in Turners Falls, will bring their plans to the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday night. They intend to buy the 25,000-square-foot facility for about $655,000 and renovate it, but they must first obtain a special permit to operate a private school in the commercially zoned area.

“It’s our vision to revive this building and bring back the educational component that once thrived there,” Williams said.

Although Viva Tubes founder Dave Mell purchased the building for $700,000 in January 2023, Williams said it has remained unused since 2020. Williams said the site would house 14 classrooms, accommodating 150 new child care slots for children ages 5 and under. If approved, she said the basement floor will host Ja’Duke Driving School offices and the third floor would hold Ja’Duke’s performing arts classrooms. The proposed project, Williams said, would create at least 30 new jobs and increase foot traffic downtown.

“We have a child care wait list that is quite large right now, so moving [to Greenfield], we can still serve that purpose and continue services for people that need them. ... And then I think, from a driver’s ed perspective, it’s a more populated area, more accessible, so that will also serve a purpose,” Williams said. “This is the our first branching out. ... We started with like one room, and we’ve now gone to a 35,000-square-foot facility. So we know about growth and expansion, but this is the first time we’re stepping outside of our little home [in Turners Falls].”

Ja’Duke first opened in 2004 in the basement of the Colle Opera House before moving to its current space at 110 Industrial Boulevard in Turners Falls a few years later. It has grown to include driver’s education through the Ja’Duke Driving School, 75 weekly performance art classes under Ja’Duke Center for the Performing Arts, and 14 early education and child care classrooms through Ja’Duke Preschool. The company also operates Ja’Duke Backdrops, an onsite coffee shop and ice cream shop.

If the special permit is approved at Thursday’s ZBA meeting, the building’s pending sale, Williams stated, should be complete by early June. She said after thorough renovations — a new roof, the installation of sprinklers, upgrades to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, and interior changes to create classrooms, dance studios and driver’s education spaces — the company hopes to launch Greenfield-based programming in early 2025.

“Ja’Duke is famous for providing high-quality education and building community, both of which will benefit Greenfield’s downtown,” Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessye Deane wrote in a statement. “Kim, Nick and the Ja’Duke team have a long history of success, and we look forward to celebrating this expansion and the foot traffic it will bring to Greenfield’s downtown.”

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The ZBA will hear Ja’Duke’s proposal at approximately 7:45 p.m. Thursday. Mell declined to comment on the pending sale.

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.