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The PEDA board heard the pitch from Waterstone Retail Development on Thursday morning.

New Big Box Proposal for PEDA Business Park

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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A big-box retailer wants to build on the former 'teens' section of the GE property in the William Stanley Business Park.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — More than a year after initial planning fizzled for a big-box store at William Stanley Business Park, Waterstone Retail Development returned on Wednesday with a renewed proposal for bringing a shopping anchor to the former General Electric property off Tyler Street.  
The newly proposed complex is 200,000 square feet for a single company, 30,000 larger than the previous project idea announced in late 2011, which was anticipated to include one anchor store as well as smaller retail spaces. 
Representatives of the Needham-based developer told the board of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority that confidentiality agreements with the anticipated tenant for the site prohibit them from saying what the retailer is, but estimated that it will employ around 200 people.
"We can't speak to that now, because we have signed confidentiality agreements," said Neal Shalom, a founding principal of Waterstone, who indicated that information won't be shared until after the permitting process for the building has been completed. "They won't even let us say whether they have other stores in the area."
Executives for the company said Waterstone is an ideal partner to develop the 16-acre parcel, citing experience with problematic and environmentally challenged properties, such as recent projects in Lowell and Wayland.
"We are looking to do some major modifications to the site," said Doug Richardson, vice president of development, who said in addition to contamination issues from the former manufacturer's use of polychlorinated biphenyls, the site had varied grades and leftover foundation slabs. Waterstone estimates the cost of rehabilitation of the parcel at around $10 million just to be shovel ready for construction, and a total estimated cost of $30 million for the proposed project.
The plan also calls for changes to the intersection of Tyler Street and Dalton Avenue, including new turn lanes, a new traffic signal and two new bus stops.  
"All of this work will be done in accordance with the Community Development Board and the city of Pittsfield," said Richardson. "We have a whole permit process ahead of us, once we move forward with this."
Shalom, whose company Equity Industrial Partners also develops industrial and warehouse property, said its research indicated retail to be the most viable use of this piece of the business park, a visibly dilapidated span known as "the teens" because it was the location of GE's teen-numbered buildings.  
"It's not a site that would lend itself to warehouse or manufacturing, because of the cost and the competing existing empty buildings at the present time," said Shalom, who added that other less expensive options for such industrial businesses were more plentifully available in Pittsfield than high-traffic locations for large retail.
"We on our own came up with this retail development. We'd be happy to do manufacturing, we'd be happy to do warehousing, we actually do more of that than we do of retail," Shalom told PEDA. "The highest and best of use in our opinion is a retail development on this site."
The proposed development, which would amount to roughly the combined retail square footage of the Wal-Mart and Home Depot in Pittsfield's Berkshire Crossing complex, would take up about one third of the business park's remaining 46 acres, after 6 acres occupied by MountainOne Financial Center and a Western Massachusetts Electric Co. solar field.
PEDA, while acting as landlord of the business park, has no permitting authority for approval of the use. Waterstone will work with the city's Office of Community Development to advance its proposal, which will be subject to review by the Community Development Board and City Council, which raised some objections to Waterstone's previous proposal.

Tags: economic development,   PEDA,   redevelopment,   retail,   shopping,   

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Pittsfield Continues Tax Classification Hearing Over Free Cash

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Mayor Linda Tyer says she wants to focus on building reserves. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday continued the tax classification hearing after clashing with the mayor over how much free cash should be used to offset the tax rate.
At the end of a nearly three-hour meeting, councilors and Mayor Linda Tyer were at a stalemate with the majority of the council unsatisfied with Tyer's $750,000 compromise.
"We are taking this out of the pockets of our taxpayers and putting it into the city coffers," Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers said. "I know that's how it works but at this moment we can afford to give some of that savings back."
The original proposal was a residential tax rate of $19.99 per $1,000 valuation and a commercial rate of $39.96 per $1,000 valuation, which holds the residential rate to a 57 cent increase and the commercial rate to a 2 cent increase.
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