Organizers hope a project in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts will shed a whole new light on the city.
The Berkshire Lightscapes Project is asking Pittsfield residents to look at their downtown in an entirely new way — through the power of light. Elie Hammerling is a member of the group’s steering committee, and a downtown resident. He describes its membership like this:
“People who live in the community and love the community a great deal, and see the vision for the city as one that will attract the beautiful of some of our architecture, meaning the buildings, which are beautiful, it will also see the — what we call public spaces within the city, some of them small parks, like Park Square, and some also of those connecting corridors between our major thoroughfares downtown, which also can be quite beautiful,” said Hammerling.
The group is attempting to raise $50,000 in donations to unlock matching grants from a state agency.
“The MassDevelopment Commonwealth Places Program has funding for cities the size of Pittsfield, and in reading their application, it seemed to be a fit to the areas which are the central hubs within the city, like Dunham Mall, City Hall, and Park Square,” said Hammerling.
The project would use state of the art LED lighting to lend those public spaces a new flare.
“Well, I must say that I am really, really excited about the Berkshire Lightscapes Project," said Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer. “I think that this is one of the best examples of a collaborative network that has led to a very successful and very exciting vibe in our downtown, and it’s all being done without a single dollar of taxpayer money.”
Pittsfield’s city hall has been an active participant in the planning.
“Partners in city government have been quite a few people. I’ve had the pleasure of months ago beginning this project with discussions with Mayor Tyer and many of the people within her department, and because of the kind of programming that will take place at the sites where funding will take place, I’ve spoken extensively to Jen Glockner, who’s our cultural development person for the city of Pittsfield,” said Hammerling.
Tyer put the Berkshire Lightscapes Project to the test before lending city hall’s support in grant writing and vouching for the group to MassDevelopment.
“They took a trial run by lighting the First Agricultural Bank on North Street for 10 days this past December, and it was quite stunning,” Tyer said.
While the initial project focuses on Park Square, Dunham Mall, and City Hall, Hammerling says the Berkshire Lightscape Project has more goals for downtown Pittsfield.
“The ultimate dream would be to see from the beginning of West Housatonic on South Street up to Berkshire Medical Center — all of the buildings, in some way, not from top to bottom, but with various highlights on various building being lit up with some of the special LED lighting that’s available today,” said Hammerling.
Mayor Tyer says the project is about more than just aesthetics.
“Anytime that you highlight and celebrate and feature the fabulous nature of our downtown corridor, you are creating the atmosphere where businesses want to invest, where people want to live, and so this is just another opportunity for us to celebrate our great city,” said Tyer.
The group’s race to collect $50,000 is expected to end on May 16th, with the goal of unveiling its work in time for the summer tourism season.