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The Community Develop Board approved an expanded use for the former Notre Dame Church.
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A drawing of a possible new configuration of the downstairs level of the Shire City Sanctuary.

Pittsfield Board Approves Expanded Uses For Shire City Sanctuary

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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The former Notre Dame Church, now Shire City Sanctuary, has hosted a number of businesses and activities and will be the site of this year's Berkshire Fringe Festival.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Development Board has granted a request from the owners of the former Notre Dame Church to expand the potential uses of that facility, now known as Shire City Sanctuary.

Owner Chris Swindlehurst said he and his wife, Crispina ffrench, wished to expand the potential business possibilities of the two-story, 14,000-square-foot church building, which they purchased along with an adjacent 7,000-square-foot rectory for $400,000 in 2006.
"At that time, my wife had a fairly substantial business with 10 employees, which was housed in the downstairs, and it was a textile manufacturing business," Swindlehurst told the board on Tuesday. "When they granted that special permit they had just one specific use, and now we'd like to expand the use."
For three years, the church was also the headquarters of the nonprofit Alchemy Initiative, of which ffrench was a founding member. In 2011, Alchemy was also granted a special permit to raise chickens and bees on the premises. ffrench and the organization parted ways when the building was placed back on the market in 2012.
Now known as Shire City Sanctuary, the facility is described as a "Makerspace, Cyberoffice and majestic Eventspace" on its website. It has been the site of an annual holiday bazaar, artist workshops, and next month will host the newly relocated Berkshire Fringe Festival.
Swindlehurst noted that the space also contains a commercial kitchen that they are looking to add to. He also has been looking to rent a portion of the building as "makerspace," or shared artist workspace, a perceived need for which has been of ongoing interest  to many in the local arts community over the past year.
"We basically want to expand the special permit to include many different issues that may come along," said Swindlehurst.
City Planner Cornelius Hoss noted the application for usage change was "quite similar" to that granted last year to the Whitney Center for the Arts, adding that any actual usages would still require various permitting from appropriate departments, but would now be acceptable under this amendment to the special permit.
"They'll still have to get building permits, or a certificate of occupancy, to match up with a change of use," Hoss told the board, which approved the change unanimously.

Tags: church reuse,   shared space,   special permit,   

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