With Walmart Proposal Comes Potential Mixed Use Of Pittsfield Business Park
After a couple of failed attempts, a developer is looking to bring a Walmart Supercenter to the former General Electric site in Pittsfield.Waterstone Retail Development is pursuing a $30 million project to build a 200,000-square foot store on 16 acres of the William Stanley Business Park. Principal Anton Melchionda says the 200 employees of the city’s current Walmart would move to the new store, with 100 additional mostly full-time workers expected to be hired.
“We will be adding a full grocery store to the current offering of the Walmart down the street,” Melchionda said. “If you take a look at the city of Pittsfield this new location fits within a void, what’s referred to as the ‘food desert,’ because there’s no offering for all of these folks who live within walking distance and close proximity to actually be able to walk to a grocery store and have access food. That’s really the big driver for us locating on this site.”
Earlier proposals from Waterstone to build a retail center at the park fell through for various reasons, including public sentiment. Melchionda says the prior plans included Walmart, but Waterstone wasn’t able to disclose that at the time. The would-be investment includes $12 million of remediation work at the site that is about 2.5 miles closer to downtown Pittsfield than the current store. Melchionda says public polling done by a company working with Waterstone showed 80 to 95 percent support for development at the 52-acre park.
“They’re coming around to understanding how that plan is going to be the catalyst to ultimately seeing the balance of the park being developed, cleaned up, creating jobs and bringing vibrancy back to what was once a very active center of commerce which has slipped away over the years ever since GE’s departure,” said Melchionda.
Mayor Linda Tyer, who took office in January, says Waterstone should be able to go through the public process and make their case for the proposal, calling it a signal that Pittsfield is open for business. Her predecessor, Dan Bianchi, opposed the previous retail projects, saying advanced manufacturing and the like are a better fit for the park. Tyer says she is keeping an open mind about what could be located there.
“I think I made that clear throughout the course of the campaign,” Tyer said. “I believed our best opportunities at the William Stanley Business Park would be mixed use environments. In fact there’s a mixed use dynamic that’s already started there. We have a financial institution, a solar array and the Berkshire Innovation Center is hoping to build its center there. So there is plenty of room and I believe opportunity for mixed use in a way that works nicely together.”
Melchionda says Walmart will be the sole tenant of the 16-acre parcel, but other retail uses will be explored.
“We are also in conversations with other non-retail users,” Melchionda said. “With an industrial user, some medical office users and research and development users for other parts of the site. But all of that is right now in its infancy and it’s not something that we have any commitments to. But it’s certainly something we are working on with PEDA, the mayor and the city.”
PEDA, the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, is the quasi-public agency in charge of the William Stanley Business Park. It’s signed a letter of intent with Waterstone giving the company exclusive rights to pursue development of the designated parcel. Unlike Bianchi, Mayor Tyer does not serve on the PEDA board.
“I felt strongly that they should be allowed to entertain opportunities that come before them without a political influence,” Tyer said. “I hope to be their partner, support their work and offer our city talent to whatever endeavors they undertake. I do that think there is a way for us to be advocates together without me being on the board.”
Melchionda says it would be an all hands on deck effort to market the current Walmart at Berkshire Crossings retail plaza if that location is vacated. He says engineers and consultants are beginning work to receive the needed permits for the William Stanley Business Park site. With a public process to go through, Melchionda says there is no set timeline.
Waterstone is holding a community open house on the proposal from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 28 at Hotel on North in Pittsfield.