"Hotel on North will be a 50-room, elegant property featuring an eclectic mix of furnishings and appointments to reflect its heritage as an iconic late 19th century department store in the center of Pittsfield's downtown re-birth," according to the application from Pittsfield-based MM&D LLC.
The proposed new business would occupy 68,000 square feet within two connected brick buildings on the city's main drag, from 273 to 297 North St., constituting about two-thirds of the block between Summer Street and Union Street. In addition to the two restaurants currently on the ground level and slated to remain, the new hotel structure will offer three small meeting spaces
"This will be a great project for the downtown," said City Planner Cornelius Hoss, who indicated the company had entered into discussions with the city's Office of Community Development nearly a year ago about the proposed project.
The proposal seems likely to avoid the debate that has raged over planned hotel projects along Pittsfield's southern corridor.
"For the most part, it's a building that can accommodate this use," Hoss told iBerkshires. "From our departmental review, it doesn't seem like a project that should have too many hurdles from the permitting side of things."
Those hurdles will include approval of some requested key parking changes as well as streetscape changes to accommodate an intended 8-foot marquee, for which MM&D plans to petition for the relocation of an existing light pole.
The amount of parking spaces required by the city for operations at the premises was reduced from 250 to 39 in 2004 during a multimillion dollar renovation of the two connected buildings by the owners of Link to Life, a medical alert company that took up residence there until it was sold to Critical Signals Technologies in 2009. The applicant is asking that for the new proposed enterprise, the city require only the 41 spaces currently available in the parking lot to the rear of the building, though it says it intends to offer additional off-site parking, and that "a number of off-site locations are being considered presently."
The city planner noted that the site is adjacent to one of the major downtown public parking garages, and additional parking can be found around the immediate vicinity.
"In reality, most days they should be able to accommodate their employees and their guests just using their own parking lot that they have on site," said Hoss.
The venture will also need to seek City Council approval to alter the on-street parking spaces in front of the hotel, in order to create a desired four-space zone area that will enable it to offer valet parking services.
"Hotel on North will be at the center of Pittsfield's downtown revitalization efforts, with walking distance to restaurants, galleries, performing arts spaces and other area attractions," the firm said in its site plan document, "Hotel on North will serves as a destination for both business and leisure travelers."
MM&D said it is in the process of applying for both state and federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits in order to help finance the planned renovations.
"All efforts will be made to maintain and improve the historic character of the premises, and at the same develop a sophisticated destination on North Street," according to the company's application materials.
The developers declined to offer additional comment on Friday, but a representative said more information will be forthcoming at a press conference scheduled for Feb. 4.
The 297 North St. portion of the property was for many decades was known primarily for the The Meyer Store, a local department store that closed in the late 1950s. It was then a music store in the 1960s known as the Lisi Bros. Piano Co., followed by an office supply retailer, Gowdy Reid Inc. The adjacent 273 North building contained a department store named Risberg's in the early part of the century, then the Besse Clark store for many decades after that. It was purchased by the MM&D
in December 2012 for $1.35 million.
Both buildings had depreciated significantly when they were purchased in 2002 by Joyce Bernstein and Larry Rosenthal, who spent an estimated $6 million in the process of renovation. Over the past six years, they have housed three different incarnations of "Spice"-named restaurants under different management schemes, and three other restaurants came and went in its neighboring space over a five-year period before current tenant Mad Jacks relocated there in April 2012.