LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — If Pittsfield doesn't want Walmart, Lanesborough will take it.
The Board of Selectmen have asked Town Manager Paul Sieloff to reach out to Walmart officials and ask if they'd consider building the proposed supercenter on the Berkshire Mall property instead of in Pittsfield.
"Our tax rate is much cheaper than Pittsfield's, we'd be glad to have you, and there is plenty of parking," said Chairman John Goerlach.
Waterstone Realty is looking to build a Walmart Supercenter at the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield and closing the existing one at Berkshire Crossings. But, as of Thursday, the company has still not filed any applications. The project has faced heated debates in the city but Lanesborough officials would welcome the additional tax revenue.
"Let's grab a hold of that one if [the city] wants to keep fighting them," Goerlach said.
Selectman Henry "Hank" Sayers says developers had placed a call to Town Hall in the last six months but it was misdirected and he is unsure of what ultimately happened.
Of course, there are some challenges facing such a move. First, the town does not own the property. Kohan Retail Investment Group owns the mall. However, the Baker Hill Road District, a quasi-public entity, is making a move to purchase it. The district still needs state authorization for that.
A second question is what that would mean for Target. Target owns its space in the mall and could be upset with a direct competitor moving onto the same land parcel. Goerlach, however, doesn't want to wait. He wants to get in contact with Walmart first to see if there is any interest. If Target opposes it, then he's sure the Selectmen will be made aware of it.
While Waterstone may not have applied for city permitting yet, the company did place a $20,000 non-refundable deposit on the land. The company has a purchase and sales agreement in place as well. It will still need a special permit from the City Council and already there have been multiple petitions asking the developer to change designs and perform an economic impact study — both of which have yet to get approval.
The project has both opponents and proponents in Pittsfield, which have been arguing over the proposal for almost a year since it was first proposed.
Meanwhile, the Berkshire Mall has been losing tenants with the most notable being Macy's, Best Buy, and soon J.C. Penney, three anchors. The taxable value of the mall has been decreasing at an alarming pace from $60.4 million in 2008 to $19.5 million this year. Kohan purchased the mall for $3.5 million. Town officials say the owners are not fully up to date with tax payments either.
That loss of revenue is sounding alarms with Lanesborough officials who are looking for ways to bring in more revenue. The commercial space at the mall with availability seems a logical place to recruit new companies.
Sayers also asked Sieloff to contact Ipswich Pharmaceutical Associates, which was just denied the ability to build a medical marijuana cultivation facility in Becket.
"That might be a good tax revenue for the town," Sayers said.
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