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Dunkin' Donuts Franchisee Pulls Back On Plans To Demolish Pittsfield Church

Jim Levulis

A leading Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee is pulling back on plans to demolish a 73-year-old church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to make way for a restaurant.

In a release fromDunkin’ Donuts’ public relations firm Monday afternoon, Cafua Management announced it will withdraw plans to demolish St. Mary The Morning Star Church on Tyler St. The company’s chief development officer Greg Nolan writes Cafua is preparing a revised plan that maintains the church building. He adds Cafua intends to donate the church to Pittsfield for use as the city deems appropriate.

Earlier in September, Cafua submitted site plans to raze the church and two other buildings on the 2.6-acre property that has been on the market since 2010. The company is under initial contracts with the Catholic Diocese of Springfield for the property, according to Diocese spokesman Mark Dupont. The property has cost the Pittsfield Catholic community $200,000 since shortly after the church closed in 2008. Any money from a sale stays in the local Catholic community.

A slew of social media comments followed the news of the planned demolition. About 1,400 people have signed an online petition started by Darcie Sosa aimed at halting the destruction.

“I’m sort of in awe that this beyond the best possible outcome that we could expect,” Sosa said. “I’m enamored by Cafua’s generosity at donating the church to the city.”

Cafua owns four other Dunkin Donuts in Pittsfield and all or parts of some 300 stores nationwide. Nolan writes the company is committed to listening to and collaborating with Pittsfield residents and city officials at all times. Cafua plans to meet with the city planner, present new ideas for the site to the public and pursue the necessary approvals. The company demolished Plunkett Elementary School on First St. earlier this year where it planned to build a drive-thru restaurant. The special permit for the drive-thru was denied by the City Council, citing traffic concerns. The company is appealing that decision in Massachusetts Land Court. The same type of permit was required for the Tyler St. location.

Mayor Dan Bianchi says he has not heard anything directly from the company. Upon hearing the news, State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier says she is surprised by how quickly the company responded.

“It looks like we have made a first step into a possible solution,” Farley-Bouvier said. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions. There are still a lot more people to talk to. But the idea that the company is willing to come and be part of the conversation and part of the solution is really encouraging.”

Sosa was involved in a campaign earlier this year that persuaded CVS Caremark not to demolish St. Francis Church in North Adams. She hopes these types of efforts can continue.

“Either way I was hoping that this would be the initial start to getting the ball rolling to get a perseveration society to get not only this church, but all the churches and buildings that add landscape value to the city, to get them repurposed and to find the right buyers for them,” Sosa said. “That means working through the City and with realtors.”

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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