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The school and rectory on the St. Mary's campus will also be razed and the property subdivided.

Dunkin' Donuts To Raze Pittsfield Church for Drive-Through

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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A Dunkin' Donuts franchise is seeking to tear down St. Mary's on Tyler Street and put up a new drive-through.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Developers aim to demolish a vacant former Tyler Street church and its rectory to make way for a new Dunkin' Donuts drive-through restaurant. 

According to permitting paperwork filed with the city's Office of Community Development, Cafua Management Co. of North Andover, the largest franchisee of Dunkin' locations throughout the country, is in planning to erect this new restaurant on the site of the former St. Mary the Morning Star.

"The proposed restaurant will be 2,100 S.F. in size and will be located on the westerly end of the property," according to a site plan application filed by local firm SK Design. "It will include on drive-thru service window located on the north end of the building."  

According to the application, Cafua is currently under agreement with the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield, who decommissioned the church in 2008, to purchase 2.6 acres of the property, which includes parcels at 653 Tyler Street and 75 Plunkett St. The former St. Mary's campus includes five structures totaling over 41,524 square feet, including the church, rectory, convent, a small garage and a former school building that has been closed since 1973.

"The church and rectory will be razed as part of this project," the application indicates. "The school will be razed at a later date. A new parcel will be subdivided out of the two exiting parcels for the proposed restaurant."

The property is zoned for general business, and the restaurant usage is allowed by right. However, Cafua must obtain a special permit for the drive-through operation, one which requires City Council approval in addition to that of the Community Development Board. Because the structures of the church and rectory are less than 75 years old, their demolition does not need to be reviewed by the city's Historical Commission under its Demolition Delay Ordinance.

Cafua's application for a special permit includes a 76-page traffic study prepared by the firm Tighe & Bond, charting the potential impact of the new type of business at this location. Traffic formed a major point of consideration in the denial by the City Council last year of another drive-through permit sought by Cafua at the site of the former Plunkett School building.

Cafua Director of Development and Construction Gregory Nolan declined to comment on the proposed restaurant at the St. Mary's site.

"I have no comment on that location," Nolan told iBerkshires. "We're just going to go through the process."

St Mary the Morningstar was founded in 1915, but the current church building dates back to the 1950s. For decades it served as a cornerstone religious institution in the densely populated Morningside neighborhood, shutting its doors in 2008 amidst a wave of closures throughout the diocese. It has been on the market since 2010, listed on a "Price on Request" basis. 

Mark Dupont, secretary of communications for the Diocese of Springfield, said he could not comment on the potential sale of any diocese property until a sale had closed, confirming only that the St. Mary's property is still on the market and there has been no closing on its purchase 

Speaking generally, Dupont said that as with other closed parishes, St. Mary's had final closing services after which the building was decommissioned and sacramental objects removed and transported elsewhere.  

Dupont added that the proceeds of any local church property stays within that municipality's existing church community.

"After any debt that has been incurred for that property is paid off, the remainder of the proceeds stay in that area," Dupont said. "The sale of any Pittsfield church stays in the Pittsfield Catholic community."

When asked if it was customary for any further opportunities to be provided prior to a sale for former parishioners to visit a church a final time before its demolition, Dupont said this would not be appropriate, due to the fact that its interior would be stripped of its sacramental objects and other appointments, and fundamentally different from its previous state.

"It would not be as they remembered it," said Dupont  "It would not be the same parish building that they knew and loved."

Site Plan Application- 653 Tyler Street by Joe Durwin

Tags: church reuse,   demolition,   Dunkin Donuts,   

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BCAC Taps Community For Needs Assessment

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Christina Maxwell of the Food Bank of Western Mass talks  about food security.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Poverty was the topic of conversation on Friday to help the Berkshire Community Action Council gauge the needs in the community.
Community leaders and experts lead a panel Friday morning at the Berkshire Athenaeum to help spark a conversation among participants focused on poverty and its different catalysts.   
"We are all interested in working on the destabilizing effects poverty is having on our community and so we hope that we will get some good information here," BCAC Executive Director Deborah Leonczyk said. "So please give us your ideas, your suggestions. Give us your experiences we need to hear it all."
She said as the federally designated anti-poverty agency in the county, every three years BCAC must "take the pulse" of the community and find out what the needs are. This will inform the action plan for the next three years.
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