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Pittsfield Opening Downtown to More Business Options

Jim Levulis

The city of Pittsfield, Massachusetts is looking to expand its business options for its downtown area.

The city council recently approved an ordinance to the city’s Downtown Arts Overlay District that allows for more mixed use. The zoning ordinance now allows for the manufacturing and distribution of food and beverages including baking and brewing along with cheese and wine making. City Planner CJ Hoss says this opens the door for micro food and beverage businesses popping up in other downtown areas.

“There was interest in what it would take to open a brewery downtown and I know on two occasions those inquiries came in,” Hoss said. “If it was more of a brewery and not a brewpub, which is when you have a restaurant and you are also brewing beer in the same location, but for a brewery it just wouldn’t be allowed. So we started thinking ‘Well are there some other things we are missing here?”

Hoss says the city will be reaching out to two breweries that have expressed interest in opening in Pittsfield now that the ordinance allows for it. Paul Masiero is the co-owner of Baba Louie’s Pizza, which has one of its locations in downtown Pittsfield. He applied for a building permit for a gluten-free bakery right next to his restaurant, but it was denied because that type of building use wasn’t allowed before the amendment. Masiero hopes to move forward with the bakery, which he says could employ five people marketing the gluten-free products to local supermarkets and other businesses.

“I think it would attract a lot of businesses that want to be in the downtown area but couldn’t before because of the ordinance,” Masiero said. “I think it will bring in a lot of business.”

The ordinance also clarifies language on what types of planning triggers a special permit from the city. A permit is required for new building construction of more than 5,000 square feet, redevelopment of land and any building redevelopment of more than 5,000 square feet. But, the amendment eliminates the need for a permit for regular maintenance like a new roof or flooring. Hoss says this removes an additional hoop business owners have to jump through.

“There could be a difference between a significant gutting of a whole building and starting from scratch or just simply putting in new windows or a new roof,” Hoss said. “So we wanted to make sure that there was a distinction and that we were not trying to capture projects that really had to do with maintenance.”

The arts district was formed in 2006 to create a vibrant and active downtown while maintaining the historical integrity of the area’s architecture. Hoss says the amendments allow for just that.

“If someone wants to take on adaptively reusing a building for a brewery, bakery or whatever it might be, from a zoning perspective that won’t hold them back,” said Hoss.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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