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Housing Planned For Shuttered Pittsfield Church

A shuttered Pittsfield, Massachusetts church is being sold to a firm that plans to create market-rate housing while trying to preserve its historic architecture. 

The nearly 80-year-old St. Mary The Morning Star Church has been eyed for redevelopment since closing in 2008.

The Catholic Diocese of Springfield, which owns the property, entered a deal to sell the dilapidated cathedral to Cafua Management in 2014.

The group pulled back on its plans to demolish the church to build a drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant after the city’s Catholic community rallied against the plans. A group calling itself “Friends of St. Mary’s” formed to advocate for and research the building’s reuse.

Then-Mayor Dan Bianchi had discussed the challenge of rehabbing the property.

“It will take ideas, it will take capital, it will take big hearts, but that’s not to say…buildings like this have been reused. But I think it’s going to require a collaboration between maybe a number of organizations to make it happen,” Bianchi said.

Three years later, Mayor Linda Tyer announced a new plan Thursday.

Standing in the nave, Tyer announced the CT Management Group’s pending acquisition of St. Mary from the Catholic Diocese for $500,000.

The group plans to design market-rate housing units inside of the brick-bodied church.  The Dioses tells WAMC it is pleased to see the property will benefit the Pittsfield community.

Tyer says St. Mary’s will remain a landmark on Tyler Street.

“I am absolutely thrilled that one of our city’s most cherished and beautiful landmarks will have a new lease on life through its conversion to market-rate housing,” Tyer says.

CT Management Group is based in North Adams. It’s made a name for itself by converting churches into housing and office space around Berkshire County.

Developer David Carver says funding St. Mary’s redevelopment will be no easy task. Carver couldn’t give a projected cost.

“There’s a big gap that we try to close so we ultimately end up with a project that meets the level the market is at," Carver says.

The 9,600-square foot cathedral is in poor condition. Half of the pews have been removed and the walls and ceiling are crumbling due to water damage.

The 2.6-acre property also houses a rectory and convent. The schoolhouse in the back is in the worst condition. 

"We are planning 29 units in all four buildings — there’s the church, the rectory, the convent, and the school on the hill. The school on the hill is an extraordinary challenge. I understand it has been empty for about 35 years perhaps, in that range. The inside is not in great condition but we think it is structurally sound and we are willing to explore its redevelopment – keep it intact," Carver says.

The redevelopment could help Pittsfield close its market-rate housing gap.

Pittsfield will be working on a 20-year tax-exemption package for CT Management Group and will help it navigate the city’s Housing Development Incentive Program. The acquisition was partially aided by MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative loan.

A groundbreaking date has not been set.

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