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New England News

State, City Develop Ideas To Redevelop Pittsfield Neighborhood

Working with the state, Pittsfield continues to generate ideas to redevelop a neighborhood that borders the city’s once-thriving General Electric site. Pittsfield’s Tyler Street area lost more than 16 percent of its population from 1990 to 2010. At the start of the decade, about 2,400 people lived along the mile stretch between Berkshire Medical Center and the William Stanley Business Park, which used to be filled with GE workers. This past spring, Amewusika Sedzro, a state Transformative Development Initiative fellow, began her three-year assignment to work with area players to redevelop the area. Sedzro recently outlined a plan that divides Tyler St. into focus areas to build upon ongoing efforts.

“So with the hospital district, the proximity to Berkshire Medical and there are already properties there bought up by Berkshire Medical so looking at that as a corridor where we could potentially develop some housing,” said Sedzro.

Lisa Nagle is with Elan Planning and Design. The Saratoga Springs company is working with Pittsfield, the Tyler Street Business Group, the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and others on the redevelopment effort. Nagle says urban farming, food and education are among the ideas for another division involving the aging Berkshire County Sheriff’s building on Second St.

“The thinking is that it really can be many things,” Nagle said. “Access to local, fresh and healthy food. We’re also trying to job train people so that people have an opportunity to work. Perhaps you’re training entrepreneurial chefs for restaurants, culinary schooling, schooling for people who want to work at Berkshire Medical Center in the dietary department. There could be job training around food. The other idea is to use some of the green space around the sheriff’s facility to grow food that we could eat locally.”

Another redevelopment focus is around restaurants and entertainment.

“La Fogata is the number one restaurant on TripAdvisor for the city of Pittsfield,” Nagle pointed out. “It’s a destination. People are coming there. So we’re talking about building off of that, creating an arts and cultural district around these unique restaurants. Getting more restaurants into this real estate because it is relatively affordable given the citywide real estate look. So we’re training people in the farm, food and education district so maybe they can open a restaurant right on Tyler St.”

One of the factors looming over the district is the proposal to build a Walmart Supercenter on 16 acres of the William Stanley Business Park. Nagle says the $30 million project doesn’t sit within the transformative district, but does impact it. Therefore planners are envisioning an adjacent retail section along Woodlawn Avenue, which reopened to thru-traffic this June for the first time in a decade with a new bridge.

Those living in the Tyler St. area also have lower educational achievement levels than other parts of the city, and about 42 percent of the district’s median household incomes are less than $25,000. That’s true for about 31 percent of households throughout Pittsfield.

Sedzro says increased lighting, bus shelters and public input can help combat the perception that the district is unsafe in the wake of high-profile shootings over the past few years.

“We have a lot of vacant storefronts and dark areas,” Sedzro said. “Those all lend to this idea of not being safe even though when we look at the statistics Pittsfield and this district are relatively safe.”

The planners are continuing to take public input on the Tyler St. redevelopment. Click here for more information.

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