PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is looking to continue the momentum to revitalize Tyler Street this summer.
In the coming weeks, city officials will be interviewing eight consultants about potentially crafting a conceptual design for a streetscape project. The design will make many of the talked-about improvements over the last few years into a much more concrete and comprehensive vision.
"This is the initial groundwork that needs to happen," City Planner CJ Hoss said. "It allows us to start testing out what kind of options to pursue."
Tyler Street has been repeatedly cited by city officials since the North Street streetscape project was wrapping up as being the next area of focus. That decade-long project completely revamped the city's main downtown corridor. The city has been looking to take a similar approach to Tyler Street.
Money for the design had been set aside a few years ago in the city's capital budget.
But, that was right before the state designated the Morningside area as a Transformative Development Initiative district. That not only brought the expertise of MassDevelopment to the city, but also a fellow — Amequsika "Sika" Sedzro — to focus attention on the area.
Just recently, the state announced another round of fundings, extending the city's contract with the TDI program for another year.
The city opted to put off the streetscape work as that TDI work progressed. And in those years, the momentum and buy-in from the neighborhood behind Tyler Street have grown exponentially.
"This is probably the most engaged and dialed in residents and business owners," Hoss said. "A few years ago we didn't necessarily have those relationships."
Last year, MassDevelopment ran a pilot program on Tyler Street to see how the neighborhood would look with a number of improves. The one-day Better Block set up temporary bumpouts, bicycle lanes, parklets, crosswalks, bus stops, and planters — as well as an effort to fill vacant storefronts — to get a feel for what Tyler Street could be.
That followed a number of community outreach events to gather ideas. The city followed with a storefront improvement grant program to help owners improve the look of their buildings. The City Council has long pushed for a project for additional lighting to the area.
Those were coupled with more private efforts such as the Kresege Foundation's grant for Morningside Up, which brought together a number of stakeholders in the area to focus on food businesses.
The Tyler Street Business Group has been active and sitting at the table with many of these groups. The Berkshire Dream Center has been a partner in many efforts. Working Cities has been involved.
The former St. Mary the Morningstar property was sold and its redevelopment into market-rate rentals is expected to move forward.
Tyler Street is anchored by one of the city's largest employers in Berkshire Health Systems on one end. General Dynamics isn't far away on the other. The William Stanley Business Park has a number of available parcels for development.
"There is a lot of potential for that neighborhood," Hoss said.
With that momentum, the city is now looking to continue this year. Hoss said he hopes to have a consultant chosen by the end of the month.
The design will look at exactly where and how those various talked about and envisioned improvements would be done - and what it would look like. Such things as bike lanes have been talked about but exactly how those can be done with the current layout and other improvements still needs to be more detailed.
"We'll walk away with an overall design and some cost estimates," Hoss said.
Hoss said he also looks to run more pilot programs and the city is considering taking on some lower cost projects as well, such as installing new planters, this summer as well.
The design for what ultimately would be a large streetscape project is just a piece of what Hoss says is in order for this summer. He said there are a number of other program and initiatives in works to improve the Morningside neighborhood he hopes will come to fruition this summer.
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