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Tyler Street Awarded MassDevelopment Grant For Storefront Improvement

The Pittsfield city seal
The City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts
City of Pittsfield

The City of Pittsfield has been awarded a $30,000 grant through MassDevelopment to upgrade Tyler Street storefronts. City leaders say it will help make the area more attractive for businesses.

Pittsfield accepted and matched the $30,000 grant at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Acting Community Development Director Bonnie Galant says the city will use funds designed to enrich projects in residential and commercial-mixed communities, called 40R.

“40R is a smart growth zoning program that the city adopted, I wanna say, back in 2006 or 2007. And the state actually pays the city money to develop affordable housing. So, for every affordable housing unit we create we get paid,” Galant says.

Galant says grant’s ceiling is $40,000.

“We knew going into it that we probably weren't going to receive the maximum because they only had a limited amount of money,
Galant says. “So, we ended up receiving 30 [thousand dollars].”

The city’s 40R account has about $80,000 in it.

Lawmakers say the Tyler Street District Storefront Improvement Enhancement Program is a pilot that is designed to help make the neighborhood more inviting for businesses and customers.

Prompted by the Tyler Street Business Group and the city’s Department of Community Development, the funds will be used to beautify the exterior of four to five storefronts.

“We will have a design review committee. We'll have design review requirements,” Galant says. “We have got examples of other communities that already have storefront facade programs so we will be using those documents to try to finalize a package that we can put out.”

Councilor Kevin Morandi says it will have a domino effect – encouraging others to take the initiative to improve their properties. And he says it’s about time because…

“We are the only one left out of the TDI districts that doesn't have a facade improvement program,” Morandi says.

TDI is shorthand for the state’s Transformative Development Initiative. Tyler Street entered the program in 2014.

The Town of Adams recently championed a similar program, which led to renovations and private investment on Park Street.

Pittsfield businesses that want to be accepted into the storefront program would need to take on at least 20 percent of the project’s total cost or the remainder of the improvements.

The maximum a business can apply for is $15,000.

Galant says the program covers windows, lighting, and other external features.

“It's your typical storefront improvement facade program. It would be to help improve the look of the building,” Galant says.

Tyler Street received another MassDevelopment grant from its Better Block Program. This summer, it will work to upgrade a block on Tyler Street with the help of volunteers.

Morandi, who represents the Tyler Street area on the council, says he hopes revitalizing the district will help stimulate the city’s economy by stabilizing established companies and attracting startups.

“This is a gateway. Route 9 runs right in down through Tyler Street — Dalton Avenue and Tyler Street — right into downtown,” Morandi says.

The city may be able to access additional funds from MassDevelopment to continue the program beyond the initial $30,000 grant. If the pilot is successful, Pittsfield might start similar programs in other commercial districts in the city.

This was Galant’s last appearance as acting director of Community Development. Deanna Ruffer was formally approved as the new director at the meeting.

The city is still considering a proposal to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the Tyler Street area.

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