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Next Phase Of Downtown Pittsfield Reconstruction Unveiled

Jim Levulis

Designers have released plans for the next phase of Pittsfield’s downtown reconstruction.

Jon Dietrich of the firm Fuss & O’Neill is heading up Phase 3 of Pittsfield’s Streetscape Master Plan, which began in 2005. 

“There are three things that the project is really trying to do,” Dietrich said. “One is make it safer through there for both pedestrian traffic and vehicular traffic and have it function smoother in terms of the operations. The third thing is the streetscape aspect or the appearance. We are trying to improve the appearance of that whole area.”

In order to accomplish those things, the city will replace road pavement and sidewalks, shorten some crosswalks and add five foot-wide bike lanes along a roughly 1,100-foot long stretch of North Street.  The area from Wahconah Street to Madison Avenue will use the same blueprint that was used in Phase 2, which was completed in July 2012. Thirty-three trees will be placed in raised plant beds along both sides of the roadway, separating the sidewalks from the road. Updated traffic signals, bike racks, ornamental poles to hang decorations and banners along with sitting areas will be added along the route. Dietrich says the idea is to accommodate all travelers, not just those in cars.

“It’s called a sitting wall if you will and it’s just a place where people can sit,” Dietrich explained. “It’s a granite teardrop shape. You can sit on it or they can display artwork within it. The city has done that in the past year. It’s just a feature for improving the appearance and more or less the walk-ability and the sense of place for pedestrians along North St. We are trying to make it more pedestrian friendly. It allows a place to sit and take a break. The loop walk that they have now, which was really popular last summer, it’s a feature that is tuned into that.”

Pittsfield City Councilor Kevin Morandi says appearance is everything for a downtown area.

“For people to come into downtown and certainly when they are out going to restaurants and shops and they see a real nice streetscape with plantings, rain gardens, benches and art, it’s very appealing to a lot of people,” Morandi said. “I think it certainly will enhance the downtown nicely.”

This phase is being funded by a $2 million MassWorks grant. Governor Deval Patrick, who is not seeking reelection, announced the investment while visiting Pittsfield in November.

“It’s getting these infrastructure projects, which have been waiting a long, long time for investment, really underway and to a point of no return so that the next governor can’t say ‘Well I’d rather not,” said Patrick.

The current design extends to Linden St., but the anticipated construction costs exceed the grant money, so the project had to be scaled back for the time being. Dietrich says the city is working to secure funding for what would be Phase 4 from Linden to Columbus Ave. in order to continue the proposed bike lanes and complete the overall makeover. Dietrich says adding the bike lanes and bumping out the curbs will cost the city about 13 on-street parking spaces; the hope is, people will use off-street lots. Burbank Street will also accommodate two-way traffic. The city hopes to award a construction contract in April with work expected to wrap up in Spring 2015.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate 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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