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Brien takes over Downtown Pittsfield Inc. as managing director, will focus on filling empty storefronts

Rebecca Brien.
Downtown Pittsfield Inc.
Rebecca Brien.

Founded in 1983, Downtown Pittsfield Inc. represents the businesses, property owners, and nonprofits in the heart of Berkshire County’s largest community. This week, it announced the appointment of its new managing director: Rebecca Brien. Brien, most recently Director of Sales & Marketing at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsfield, attended Berkshire Community College. She’s worked at county hospitality institutions like The Cranwell and Canyon Ranch. WAMC caught up with her this morning on her first day on the job.

BRIEN: I was actually born and raised here in Berkshire County. I grew up in Richmond, and I remember coming up, just as everyone else does, and doing the Thursday night shopping at England Brothers, you know, and beyond that, our Third Thursday celebrations, and really seeing the transition now to a variety of retailers, shopping, services, restaurants, all sorts of things now, that is making downtown Pittsfield a great place to be.

WAMC: Right now, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing downtown Pittsfield?

Well, I think a lot of it and, you know, even pre-pandemic, was finding retailers and shops that are can be here and thrive on in downtown. You know, we have great programs that will help young entrepreneurs, and I think we need to fill the storefronts. And that will be my main focus.

There's been a lot of conversation about the new bike lanes downtown, the new traffic patterns. We've heard from some business owners, they don't like the new setup. We've heard from some citizens that they're frustrated with it. I've also heard the city defend it and try to explain that it's attempting to modernize the layout of a 21st century downtown. Any thoughts on that conversation and any thoughts and how it impacts the businesses downtown?

Oh, sure. Change is always difficult, especially here in the Berkshires, and I think that with better collaboration and, you know, working together with the businesses and the cities, we can really make what their plans are our plans and make it a success.

Now, as far as looking forward, what do you see as opportunities yet unrealized for downtown Pittsfield you'd like to take a crack at as the head of the organization?

Well, as mentioned, you know, filling our storefronts, I think, is important. I think finding a balance between all of the different types of agencies, businesses, and the community here on North Street and really bringing people back to the nice walking, shopping, dining that there is to offer.

There's also been a lot of conversation about unhoused folks in Pittsfield’s downtown and how that impacts the community and businesses in the downtown area. Any thoughts on that conversation and what role Downtown Pittsfield Inc. plays in that ongoing conversation?

I think Downtown Pittsfield Inc, is here to support the agencies who really, it's their specialty to work with these, with individuals who maybe are on North Street, who maybe are not shopping and are there for other reasons. And I think our role is really to support them and to find ways to help those agencies, you know, find the best way to deal with it.

So what's on your Day One docket? What sort of issues do you want to hit the ground running with for Downtown Pittsfield Inc.?

It my first day today, we're actually joining the strategic planning meeting to look at the funds that will be coming into North Street and downtown Pittsfield and to find really what our voices, what our goals are, and where that money is going to be used to benefit everyone.

Does that involve ARPA funding?

Not specifically, but I will be working in collaboration of course with the city for the funding that they've received to make sure that all areas of the Berkshires are taken care of.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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