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The historic house will go through a multi-phase restoration in the coming years.

First Phase of Springside House Restoration Starts This Spring

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The porch was last re-done in 1974 and since the boards need to be lifted for the foundation work, it is being redone again this year.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The first phase of the restoration of the Springside House is slated to begin this spring.
 
The city awarded Allegrone Construction a $212,000 contract to fix the foundation, a portion of the roof, and drainage controls. The construction will start in the spring, addressing the most immediate needs to preserve the building.
 
From there, advocates and city officials are continuing to plan the exact usage of the building for the future. 
 
"The foundation had been compromised for a number of reasons, it is old, some of the brick is deteriorating. But more so, a lot of the grouts and joints and mortar is deteriorating because of improper drainage as it comes off the roof. It sort of splashed back because there aren't good gutters and all of the water just sticks around the foundation," said Parks and Open Space Manager Jim McGrath.
 
Allegrone will be putting in new gutters and then run piping underground to a dry well. That will prevent pooling of water on the foundation. Allegrone will also be fixing the foundation of the mansion. 
 
"It's pretty much around the whole house," McGrath said of the foundation work.
 
And thirdly, the company will be replacing a section of roof that has failed and is creating water damage. Concurrently, McGrath said architects are crafting the plans to rebuild the entire porch. Allegrone will need to lift floorboards of the porch for the foundation work so the city is looking to allocate funds to fix the entire porch up. 
 
"Basically we are going to be rebuilding the whole porch. We don't have a cost on that yet. It is not going to be exorbitant but it is going to eat into the capital budget," McGrath said. "When all is said and done, the porch will be redone, the foundation will be addressed, drainage, a portion of a roof. And then, whatever is left in that account, the next phase as outlined in our plan is to do the exterior envelope work."
 
The department is paying for the work from a $500,000 capital appropriation made a few years ago under former Mayor Daniel Bianchi. This construction project will be the first major use of those funds. The city also has a $50,000 grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission. 
 
"We're using the $50,000 from the state to fund the Allegrone construction. That will be part of their payment," McGrath said.
 
That grant, however, includes a couple extra hurdles. The city had to first contract with an archaeological consulting service to perform a "sensitivity study" to determine the changes of the property having any other historic uses in the past. 
 
"We needed to do a sensitivity assessment which basically is a research project to understand if there may have been other important settlements up here around the Springside House, anything related to important archeological history," McGrath said. 
 
That cost some $4,000 and the researchers determined that there is a likelihood of early settlements in the area because of the geography and proximity to water and other resources. Now, the city will be spending close to $15,000 to have the University of Massachusetts perform an archeological dig in the park this spring. 
 
The city is also using some budget funds to perform some other minor improvements such as renovating the kiosks. In a different section of the park, a $20,000 allocation from the Community Development Block Grant has been used to hire SK Design to update a 2008 assessment on the pond.
 
"The dam has failed and the pond is filled with sediment. We want to address the sediment issue, address the dam, understand the hydrology, and then start working on the permitting and cost estimates," McGrath said. "That is an important project because the Springside pond was an important park feature for years and years and years and now it is a nuisance, an eyesore."
 
McGrath says after this first round of construction and the state's portion, there will still be around $325,000 to work from. That will go toward the second phase of working on the exterior. After that, the park advocates will be looking for money to renovate the interior, creating space for various usages. 
 
"The way the project has always been pitched is that there will need to be multiple appropriations so we cash on hand to do work and once we get into this project it doesn't make sense to not work toward completion," McGrath said. 
 
The vision is to bring the house, which has not been used in a number of years, back online. After years of planning and meetings, park advocates have all settled on a concept of how to share the property. In a few weeks, those organizations which have expressed interest in using portions of the house will come together in a meeting with Mayor Linda Tyer to start digging into the details. 
 
"While the construction is beginning we are going to start the next, final leg of the planning for the building usage and bring together a number of organizations in the community who have expressed interest in the community and expressed possible uses in the future. We'll sit down and really look at how that space will be utilized," Springside Conservancy President Joe Durwin said.
 
Stakeholders had previously come together to craft a master plan for the entire park. The next phase will help each determine their exact needs for space and craft the renovation plans for the interior - ensuring all users have the needed space and access.
 
"There are a number of organizations that have compatible programming and functions that are looking at their space needs right now," Durwin said. 
 
The end goal includes mixed uses including a visitors and educational center, office and classroom space, and spaces for groups that use the park. The park has a variety of uses and Durwin says each group is on the same page about shared usage of the facilities.
 
Each of those groups has their own efforts going on with the park. The conservancy, for example, is using grant funds to plan a food forest and Durwin says implementation funding is looking promising. 
 

The roof in the section of the middle has water leaking and is part of the first phase contract recently awarded.
"We have funding right now we are using the plan and design a proposal for a food forest, which is like it sounds a forest with all edible plants," Durwin said.
 
The conservancy is doing its own fundraising efforts and started that last summer with a gala. That raised $4,000 and is going into a park improvement account to for projects in the park. 
 
"There are a lot of other projects coming together," Durwin said.
 
The various uses of the house will create a revenue stream for ongoing maintenance. Being a vacant building now, Durwin says the routine maintenance doesn't get the attention it will have when the house is being used often. McGrath said the plans for use is revenue-neutral to provide for the upkeep of the building. 
 
"The goal is to re-establish this house as the keystone feature within this section of Springside Park and celebrate everything we've got here," McGrath said. 
 
The advocates say one big focus right now is to keep the excitement and support from stakeholders and community members going as the initial phases roll out. In the next few years, the house is hoped to be once again a hub of activity.
 
"Generally there has been community support and understanding that it is a multi-phase, large city project. The support from city councilors and through two mayoral administrations has been pretty unwavering. This project is happening and there is great use ahead for this building," Durwin said.

Tags: historic buildings,   public parks,   springside house,   

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