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The proposal for a privately operated coffee kiosk at the Common was tabled by the Parks Commission until it could research the details.

Coffee Kiosk Eyed For First Street Common in Pittsfield

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Todd Fiorentino explains his coffee kiosk plans to the Parks Commission.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A local business owner wants to open a coffee kiosk at the First Street Common. But, the Parks Commission isn't sure if it wants to commercialize the park system.

Todd Fiorentino is proposing opening Poseidon Coffee, a small kiosk to sell coffee and hot cocoa drinks during the morning hours at the park.

"It is a nice amenity for people and adds a social element," Fiorentino told the Parks Commission on Wednesday.

Fiorentino said there is a lack of coffee options during the morning, citing that Market Place Cafe doesn't open until 10 a.m. and he would be supporting the Massachusetts company Shelbourne Falls Roasters. He thinks coffee options would be a good addition to the park.

"It has been done in many urban areas. When I go to New York City there are coffee kiosks throughout Central Park," he said.

He said he'd pay all of the costs to construct the booth but would want permitting from City Hall and access to electricity -- which is available in the park. 

"It is low impact and is turnkey. It is small construction. It can be done artistically," Fiorentino said. "I would take care of all of the construction aspects so I am not looking for a contribution from the town."

The Parks Commission, however, is somewhat torn by the concept.

"I don't think we should be putting any private commercialization in any park," Commissioner Clifford Nilan said. "I am personally opposed to anybody many a profit off our parks system."

Commissioner Anthony DeMartino agrees saying that could open the door for a number of entities looking to use the public space for business.

DeMartino added that the booth would only be open for four hours a day, leaving an unattended structure in the park for 20 hours. 

Meanwhile, Commissioner Joe Durwin said he would support a commercial entity as long as it is a positive addition to the park experience. But he is also questioning the fairness of allowing this coffee entity to operate in the park while nearby That's a Wrap is paying for space in a commercial building.

"They don't run Wahconah Park without food and beer because it improves the experience," Durwin said.

Commissioner Simon Muil compares the operation to a hot dog stand more than a cafe. But hot dog carts are usually self-contained and don't use city utilities. He is particularly concerned with how an agreement would be reached for the electrical usage.

Fiorentino said since there is electricity available in the park, powering off that would be both aesthetically and environmentally better then a gas-powered generator that many food trucks use.

The location itself has raised some questions as well. In a rendering Fiorentino provided, the stand would be located on the sidewalk area on the First Street side. Parks and Open Spaces Manager Jim McGrath said he isn't sure whether that is in the park's boundaries or considered part of First Street, which would be under the Department of Public Services.

McGrath said he can certainly work with Fiorentino in trying to navigate the permitting. He said there would be a fee associated with using the park and how the electrical bills would be sorted. He said because it is a temporary structure, a building permit may not be needed but the Health Department would have some requirements.

Being on the sidewalk lowered Muil's concern about the commercialization of the park somewhat. He'd rather see it there than in the middle of the Common. Muil hasn't decided whether or not he supports the operation but said "I'm not going to shoot it down right away."

The commission ultimately tabled the discussion to gather more details. McGrath said he will first determine whether or not that promenade is part of the park, or part of First Street. From there he'll work out the other details of the agreement.

Tags: coffeeshop,   parks commission,   Pittsfield Common,   

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