PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Columbus Avenue parking garage will be torn down at the end of this month.
After years of pushing for state funding to build a new garage on the site to no avail, the city is moving forward with demolition and will replace the structure with a surface lot. The work is expected to start on March 25 and people are directed to park in the Depot Street lot instead.
Concerns about the garage's condition date back to 2013 when the City Council allocated $160,000 to reseal the top floors to extend the life a bit but on inspection the following year, it appeared worse than expected. The city never moved forward with those repairs.
On multiple occasions, the local state delegation earmarked more money for it but without the governor's support, was unsuccessful to get it released.
Officials for years talked about the importance of the garage providing parking for such attractions as Barrington Stage or Hotel on North.
The installation of the parking meters downtown in 2017 was often attributed to being a requirement to get the state to release the funds. The city previously used state money to repair the McKay Street garage and a requirement of the states was that a parking management plan is implemented. The state refused to release those funds until that was in place.
"Having a parking management plan positions the City of Pittsfield for available state funding earmarked for infrastructure repairs like the Columbus Avenue Parking garage. This is the objective that matters the most," Mayor Linda Tyer at the start of 2018, and she echoing similar comments from 2017.
The administration delayed releasing a bid for the demolition work in one last hope to get money for a new one. In February, city officials gave in and released a bid.
J.H. Maxymillian was the low bidder on the project at $1,071,667.85 with American Environmental coming in a bit higher at $1,238,245. Two other bids were rejected by the city.
Once the garage is down, the plan is to create a 140-space surface lot. It will include paving, lighting, and aesthetics, and will ultimately provide more lighting than in the current garage with the top floor closed. The current garage houses 278 in total but 156 spaces are no longer available because of the issues with the upper deck.
However, earlier this month Tyer said she will continue to look toward building a garage. The current garage's demolition will start on March 25 and the lot is expected to be completed by the end of June.
"Our plan is to have the demolition and surface lot completed by June 1 of this year. We are going to continue to seek opportunities for construction of a garage we already have designed and engineering for," Tyer said on March 1.
There is a bit of an added urgency to do something with the garage before 2020 because of the pilot Berkshire Flyer passenger train service. That project is expected to drop visitors from New York City off at the Intermodal Center across the street on the weekends and Tyer committed to making sure there is space available for rental cars for those passengers.
At the same time, downtown merchants have been getting impatient with the blighted garage currently there. In June, multiple downtown business owners told the City Council that the garage was "an embarrassment" and a safety hazard. Officials from both Barrington Stage and Hotel on North both urged the City Council to just tear it down because the garage is hurting the businesses.
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Pou's No-Hitter Lifts Force 12U to Dalton CRA Title
By Rick DuteauiBerkshires.com Sports
DALTON, Mass - Sunday’s performance was exactly the sort of thing that Berkshire Force 12U coach Jess Glebus hoped for, at exactly the right time. Just days ahead of a big trip to Florida to compete in the Babe Ruth World Series, the Force earned the Dalton CRA Softball Tournament title with a 10-0 win over the Saratoga Thunder, at Pine Grove Park.
Amanda Pou threw a no-hitter and every batter in the lineup reached base to contribute in the victory. Only one Thunder player reached base, and she was quickly thrown out by catcher Issabelle Macdonald and she attempted to steal second.
“We played Chatham yesterday and we didn’t play well, but we came out today and we were a totally different team and we were ready to play,” Coach Glebus said. “Our bats were alive, our defense was alive and our pitching was outstanding. I’m not complaining, but for some reason, on Sundays we come out alive. We really did play well today, and that’s when it counts.”
The Force won their Babe Ruth New England Regional earlier this summer to qualify for the World Series. The team heads down to Jensen Beach, Florida, on Thursday, and this tournament served as a nice dress rehearsal for the action ahead.
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