PEDA: Waterstone Contract Expires Saturday
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The site of a proposed Walmart Supercenter will be back on the market following a year of inactivity.
Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Executive Director Corydon Thurston said since Walmart pulled out of the plans developed by Waterstone Retail to redevelop the 16.5-acre site at the William Stanley Business Park there hasn't been any new activity. PEDA has signed an agreement holding the property for the developer for a year and that expires on Saturday.
"We've had no communications with anyone," Thurston said.
Waterstone had put down $65,000 toward the purchase of the parcel known as the "teens" as a non-refundable deposit. Had the project gone forward, that deposit would have gone toward the purchase price.
Waterstone developed plans for the "Woodlawn Crossing" project for the development of a 196,000 square-foot Walmart Supercenter. After Waterstone filed for permits on the project, Walmart released a statement that it no longer had any interest in the project. Waterstone later pulled the plans and planned to find another retailer to take its place.
The Needham developer had sought out the park on multiple occasions to develop a retail center -- though not always a Walmart -- and each time the project faced significant scrutiny from the public and city officials. Some in the city saw it as a good way to inspire more development in the park, provide jobs and increase the tax base, and contribute to helping revive Tyler Street. But others fought fiercely against it saying the park was never meant for retail and the focus should be on using the city's large commercial development sites in the city's core for something better.
As Saturday's deadline passes, the $65,000 deposit will then fall into the hands of PEDA. Thurston said the money has been listed as a liability on the organization's books while it waited for an out. That will now just flow back into PEDA coffers.
"The budget won't change next year because of that but the results for this year will," Thurston said.
In other business, construction of the Berkshire Innovation Center is pacing well, according to BIC's new executive director Scott Longley
"We are on schedule and moving forward," he told the PEDA board on Wednesday morning.
Longley said the organization is now looking at purchasing more equipment, is talking to prospective new members, and running training programs. He said he's been in contact with some 60 companies about joining and three startups had reached out to the BIC about being housed there.
Thurston added that the underground work on the 20,000 square-foot center is complete and the rest is "above ground." The center is on pace to open next fall.
Meanwhile, the marketing efforts of PEDA is going to be scaled back significantly in the coming year as those efforts are transitioned to city. PEDA, the city, and the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. had previously agreed to share the costs of a business development manager. In turn, PEDA reduced spending on its executive director and shifting many of those functions to the new position.
PEDA member Paul Dalton reported that a group consisting of all three of those organizations began the development of a marketing plan for the entire city. The business development manager took the lead on that and the hope is the marketing plan will help attract businesses.
City Planner CJ Hoss updated the board on the Transformative Development Initiative for Tyler Street. The TDI district doesn't include the park, but the park is just on the perimeter and PEDA officials have been involved in helping that along in hopes that Tyler Street development will help lead to development in the park.
Hoss highlighted the efforts to develop a streetscape plan for Tyler Street with hopes of getting capital funding for the reconstruction in 2020. He said four storefronts were or are being improved through the Storefront Improvement Project and there is still some $50,000 to $60,000 to spend. He also said new zoning efforts are being undertaken to encourage more development in the area.
Thurston also reported on Wednesday that Eversource is looking to sign a short-term lease of a parking lot on the property. Eversource plans to use it to store poles for work on a large local project.
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