Benjamin Hildebran outlined the changes made to the property and building.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Roots is positioning itself to be a medical and a recreational marijuana dispensary when permits are issued later this year.
Berkshire Roots is finishing up a massive renovation of 501 Dalton Ave., a commercial building that formerly housed Jay's Custom Muffler & Auto, Casey's Billiards, and the Salvation Army store.
Those three previously vacated the building to make way for a medical marijuana dispensary and renovations are nearly complete.
The company received its approval to open the facility back in July 2016 and just a few months later voters approved the legalization of recreational sales. Berkshire Roots has since adapted its building and site design and this week received the local approvals needed to sell marijuana to both medical patients and recreational customers.
"We have secured the people, the equipment, we've done a build out. We have effectively turned what used to be Casey's Billards and the Salvation Army into a really unique facility devoted to this particular use," Nuciforo said.
The company intends to open for medical marijuana in March and when state permits are issued in the summer, have the ability to serve recreational. The renovations are nearly complete and a temporary certificate of occupancy has been approved to allow cultivation and processing inside the facility. The company is now waiting for the state to sign off on the location itself and issue a license to sell.
"This building has been a very substantial investment. Not just in terms of equipment and improvements but also the amount of design and compliance work we've done there," said Attorney Andrea Nuciforo, who represents the company.
Formerly known as Khem Organics, the company hoped to open last summer but working through the approval process and renovations to the building had taken longer than expected. Nuciforo said the state Department of Public Health has walked through the property multiple times, requiring multiple adjustments to the plan.
Benjamin Hildebran, a project manager with Sage Engineering, said the entire property has been renovated for this operation including a new ADA ramp on the front steps, repairing unsafe and cracking sidewalk, added additional landscaping, removed unneeded utility connections, putting on a new roof, installing a 6-foot fence, repairing damaged wall panels, and painting the exterior of the building.
"On the inside, we did a complete renovation," he added.
There is still a little bit more work to do - particularly in building out the parking lot. Parking was a particular area in which the local special permit needed to be modified. Hildebran said the rear parking lot is currently gravel and the asphalt in the front is breaking apart. The plan is to re-do the entire lot to create sufficient parking for the customers.
"I feel like this project has brought about positive change to the building, the site, and I think it can to the city of Pittsfield too," Hildebran said.
During the state permitting and construction phases, the industry changed. When Khem started the approval process, recreational marijuana wasn't legal. And now, even after a legislative delay, permits for recreational dispensaries will be accepted in April. A newly created Cannabis Control Commission will oversee both medical and recreational is has currently released draft laws guiding the industry for public comment.
Those draft laws allows for medical marijuana facility to sell recreational as well, provided there is a barrier between the two sales. While Berkshire Roots had been focusing on the medical aspect, the law would allow another establishment to do both -- limiting the market for solely a medical marijuana facility.
"Why would you stay in medical if the market is moving away from medical?" Nuciforo said.
Nuciforo said the state has asked for more information regarding the operations and facility and he hopes his response will answer all outstanding questions. From there, the company can receive the license to sell.
Once operating, the company is expected to employ a dozen or so people. Nuciforo said particularly when it comes to those doing the cultivation, "the marker for folks who are good at this is quite competitive." That leads to higher wages than other type of retail establishments.
This week the company received approvals to modify its site design from the Community Development Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
"This certainly will result in increased activity on the property and I believe they have made the appropriate modifications," said ZBA member Miriam Maduro before casting a vote in favor of the modification.
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Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of energy and environmental affairs, visits the site of culvert project in Pittsfield being funded through the state's climate readiness program.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides was in Pittsfield on Friday to review a state-funded culvert site and meet with local officials to discuss the state's climate readiness program.
She joined Mayor Linda Tyer at the Churchill Street culvert, a site which recently received grant funding through the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program. The city was awarded an $814,524 state grant in June for the Churchill Brook and West Street Culvert Replacement Project.
Through the MVP program, which begun in 2017, municipalities identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities and strengths, develop adaptation actions, and prioritize next steps. The initiative which initially started as a $500,000 capital grant program has now increased to $12 million. Pittsfield is among the 71 percent of communities across the commonwealth now enrolled in the MVP program.
"The governor and the lieutenant governor have made resilient infrastructure a priority all across the state and I think it's really important to know that we have a really vested interest in Western Massachusetts communities as well as all across the state, not forgetting the Berkshires or Pioneer Valley," said Theoharides in a statement. "Our MVP program is really focused on these types of partnership investments and looking to design infrastructure for the challenges we're seeing today and moving forward as climate change increases."
Four names will be on the preliminary ballot but only three candidates showed for the debate held by the Pittsfield Gazette and hosted at Berkshire Community College. The moderator was radio host Larry Kratka and Pittsfield Community Television aired the event.
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