By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent Print | Email
The Hotel on North will transform former retail space into a 45-room hotel.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A new partnership linked to county's most iconic hotel unveiled plans for a multimillion-dollar redevelopment to fill a niche they say has long gone underserved — the need for lodging options in downtown Pittsfield.
The proposed Hotel on North will offer an alternative in downtown accommodations for the first time in more than three decades, according to representatives of Main Street Hospitality Group at a community press conference at the site on Tuesday.
"We're really looking forward to being a great part of North Street, and the revitalization that is happening in downtown Pittsfield," said Bruce Finn, chief operating officer. "We really feel that we're going to be an integral part of that."
The $11 million complex will be completed in spring 2015, providing 80 construction jobs and 35 to 50 permanent jobs (mix of seasonal, part time and full).
Officials of Main Street Hospitality, which operates Stockbridge's storied Red Lion Inn as well as Porches Inn in North Adams, said they have long been looking to join forces with MM&D, owned by David and Laurie Tierney, and spent five years looking for the right site before honing in on the adjoined buildings at 273 & 297 North Street.
The partnership hopes to begin renovation to adapt the 68,000 square foot, late 19th-century complex of former retail buildings into a 45-room boutique hotel. In addition to two existing ground-floor restaurants and a second-floor banquet space, the new hotel would add a lobby and gift shop, business center and additional meeting spaces.
"It is our intention to really bring out the history of these great structures," said architect Karen Tierney Hunt, who noted that in addition to creating rooms of varying size and styles, major renovations would be undertaken to restore windows, columns and original brick walls throughout the buildings to something more reminiscent of their original architecture.
"We have the incredible high ceilings, and these beautiful brick walls, and gorgeous floors, all of that is authentic," said Director of Business Development Sara Eustis "So all we have to do is put in beautiful beds, and amenities, and thoughtful work spaces."
"It's really a mix of old and new," according to Eustis, who said local art and antiques will figure into the decor of the new hotel, as well as other aspects intended to offer a nod to local culture and heritage.
Eustis said the planned venue would be a "destination hotel" distinct from anything else being offered in the city's expanding lodging industry, which has recently seen signs of stimulation for the first time in years in the form of competing hotel proposals around its southern Route 7 corridor.
The hotel will be fronted by a new marquee oriented to the hotel lobby's, and valet service will be offered at this entrance. Parking for guests and employees will be available in the building's rear lot, and MM&D is currently in negotiation to obtain an additional lot for more parking farther off site.
Financial officer David Tierney said some of the cost is hoped to be financed through historic renovation tax credits.
The hotel group expects to draw upon a desire for more diversity among existing business travelers to the region, along with increased cultural tourism to Pittsfield, in order to create a thriving mainstay. They say the combined experience of the team involved makes them well positioned to accomplish this.
Sara Eustis, of Main Street Hospitality Group, is the daughter of Red Lion Inn proprietor Nancy Fitzpatrick.
"We're no stranger to the Berkshire County market," said Finn, who said the combined sales and marketing staff from its two existing hotels gives it insight to attracting the combination of tourist and business traveler needed to be successful.
He said there are some 12,000 room nights needed from Sunday through Thursday — particularly for corporate travelers. The hotel gives the company a central location to better serve both the tourism and corporate markets.
Finn described the market research done in preparation for the proposal as "quite extensive," and stemming from a concept that had been under consideration for more than five years.
"What we hear is the desire to have a variety of choices," Berkshire Visitors Bureau President Lauri Klefos said, adding that the flavor of historical authenticity was also something sought after by many travelers.
Recent annual tourist spending in the county amounts to more than $335 million, according to figures from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, and Klefos said about 10 percent of that figure is spent in Pittsfield.
Despite apparent growth in this sector, however, the lodging capacity of the city has remained mostly static in recent decades, compared to its southern neighbor Lenox, whose combined roster of inns accounts for about 45 percent of the rentable rooms in the Berkshires.
"This is such good news for Pittsfield, and for the Berkshires," declared Klefos.
"From a tourism standpoint, I think we've seen a large growth in the number of people coming into our downtown, and I think it's important to offer choices," agreed Megan Whilden, the city's director of cultural development.
At a subsequent review of the site plan on Tuesday night, the Community Development Board voted unanimously and without questions in favor of the applicant's request for a special permit and parking requirement waivers necessary for the plan.
"It's very impressive, and it will make a great addition to downtown," said board member Floriana Fitzgerald, "It's another piece to the puzzle."
Subsequent approvals for the site will need to be obtained from the city's Zoning Board and City Council, but thus far response from staff and elected officials have been enthusiastic.
"This is a wonderful project. It is just so nice to see the rehabilitation of a historic building," Mayor Daniel Bianchi said. "It's great to have yet another destination at this end of North Street."
Bianchi said the hotel coupled with the next phase of the streetscape reconstruction can be a "catalyst" for future economic growth. The state is funding a renovation of the project for that end of North Street. The private investment, he said, will help the city be able to leverage even more state and federal funds to continue building the downtown.
"We can take his and leverage it with the state to get other public works dollars," he said, adding that investments like the hotel help prove to the state that money already spent is paying dividends.
"I am thrilled both by the development of the Hilton Gardens on South Street, and by the proposed hotel on North Street, and I'm sure that the owners of both have done their homework, because no one would make an investment of that size without analyzing the market," Whilden said. "These two hotel investments show that Pittsfield is an excellent market for visitors and tourism, and that our hard work over the past 10 years to revitalize the downtown through arts and culture, in concert with other economic initiatives, is paying off."
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