The footings of the new Berkshire Place were being poured as the groundbreaking was under way for the $12 million facility.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It doesn't look like much now, but by next fall the dirt and concrete lot on South Street will be Janice Selkowitz's new home.
"It's going to be wonderful," she said. "I've seen pictures of what it's going to look like."
Selkowitz and fellow Berkshire Place resident Lucinda Nuciforo were among the gold-shovel dignitaries to mark the groundbreaking of the new skilled nursing facility for Berkshire Place on Thursday.
The 40,000 square-foot facility is being built at 276-290 South St., the site of the former St. Teresa's Church and a doctor's office that were both leveled to make way for the residence.
Staff, members of the board, representatives from MassDevelopment, which provided the $12 million bond for financing, NBT Bank, Adams Community Bank, contractor Allegrone Construction and EGA PC Architects and others gathered under tents at the construction site.
The weather wasn't cooperating but Executive Director Edward Forfa said he'd take the rain as a sign of good luck, just like on a wedding day.
"It feels just fantastic," he said. "Certainly for the community, the project, the location, the history of our existing organization, it's really a quality care option moving forward."
The ceremony was definitely symbolic — construction was already moving well ahead and the noise of backhoes and cement trucks drowned out some of the talk.
Forfa said the project was on schedule and the weather up until Thursday had been good. "We're hoping for a nice mild winter."
Board Chairman Shaun Heimann said it was the culmination of a lengthy planning process and "multiple strategic meetings."
"We looked at other locations and this worked out. ... we're very excited about it," he said. "It's such gateway into the city, it's such a highly trafficked road coming north into the city, and we took that into consideration in the way the building addresses the street."
The three-story, 54-bed structure will have plenty of green space and landscaping on the 1/2 acre lot to make it attractive. It won't be expanded further but it will give provide 10 more beds than the current Berkshire Place just down the road.
It will also include a community room, commercial kitchen, living and dining rooms, two elevators and support spaces and will be built along green building standards with sustainability in mind.
Nursing Director Melody Black said the new building is exciting but will be challenging as well.
"It's going to be different for us," she said, adding that the nursing staff has been part of the discussions on how it will operate. "We're still in the midst of that, staffing different units, because we're going to be doing some specialized units. ... We're really looking forward to it. "
The 54 beds will also all be private, said Heimann, unlike some of the units in the current building. "We're gaining 10 beds. There's been a waiting list for many years."
As for the older building, which dates to 1888, "ideally, we'd like to retain the property for senior apartments, downtown city living," said Heimann. "But we haven't crossed that bridge yet."
Selkowitz has been living at Berkshire Place for about 18 months and said she's happy there.
"The care is excellent. They're so good to people," she said. Asked if she'd picked out her new room yet, she laughed and shook her head.
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