Former Berkshire Place to Transform Back to Independent Senior Living
Berkshire Retirement Home has owned the building at 89 South St. since 1888, when it opened as senior housing as Berkshire County Home for Aged Women. The name was changed in 1960 to Berkshire Place and the operations shifted to skilled nursing and rehabilitation, long-term care, and residential care.
Four years ago, the company demolished the former St. Theresa's Church and constructed a new 54-room facility, expanding it skilled nursing offerings. Now, it is looking to turn 89 South St. back into independent, senior living.
"It is senior living with staff that's available if someone needs to get something from a high place in a cupboard, or assistance," said attorney Emil George.
Allegrone Construction is contracted to renovate the interior of the building, based on designed crafted by SK Design. It will feature 18 units for seniors, likely ages 80 and older, with shared dining spaces, and staff on hand 24/7. George said it is not quite assisted living, but more market-rate senior housing.
Berkshire Retirement Home will still be the owner. For its financing for the project, George said a new entity, 89 South Care, had to be created but that's managed by the same organization. Berkshire Place has offices there and will continue to do so.
"It won't be unlike what has been there for 100 years," George said. "It is a 130-year-old building. We want to put it back to use. I think it is a good project for the community."
The Zoning Board of Appeals granted a special permit for the work on Wednesday. The use of the building had been grandfathered into zoning but the current laws forbid housing on the ground floor in that area unless there is a special permit.
The timing of the issuance of the permit was somewhat apropos as just a day before a coalition of local senior care organizations released a multi-year action plan that calls specifically for more housing options for seniors.
In other business, a pair of residents were given the OK to raise six chickens in their respective yards.
Mark Rogers was given the approval to raise chickens on Gale Avenue. Rogers said he raised chickens with his family in the eastern part of the state as a child — though it wasn't quite legal. But, now, he moved back here and sees that the city allows such use and would like to do it again.
"It is just something that since I was a kid, I am eager to do. Since they are allowed here with these special provisions, I'd enjoy raising chickens again," Rogers said.
Rogers said he sent out personal letters to all of his neighbors and heard no negative feedback. The house is across the street from a farm.
"It is nice to see someone who wants to go through the process and went out on his own to contact the neighbors. It was just really well done," said ZBA member John Fitzgerald.
Meanwhile, on Ventura, Teresa Jean Rubin has chickens as pets. But, Chicken George, a rooster, recently crossed the road — Rubin said he had gotten used to visiting people and went out on his own that day — and that led to a complaint.
She didn't have the needed special permit.
"I spoil them. I feed them a warm meal every day. I pet them. I talk to them. They're my pets," Rubin said.
Rubin had been following all of the city's rules on backyard chickens — except for having the rooster who she has rehomed to a nearby farm — and now she applied for, and received, the special permit.
"It sounds like the applicant is going to follow the rules the city has prescribed," ZBA member Thomas Goggins said, and the board followed suit in allowing the permit.
The city had gotten an increase in request for backyard chicken permits some six years ago and didn't have much for regulation in place — and ultimately faced some issues in neighborhoods. But, as that popularity took off then, the city crafted guidelines for owners, most of which have been included as conditions on the special permit.
Since those conditions went into place, Permitting Coordinator Nate Joyner said there has only been one issue with owners and that was resolved through the special permitting process.
Tags: ZBA, chickens, senior housing,
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