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The Columbus Avenue garage has been a safety hazard in the city's downtown for years.

Pittsfield's Columbus Avenue Garage Set to Be Torn Down

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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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. 
The garage's top level was closed off in 2014 because of safety concerns as the beams were separating from the support, just months after the state earmarked $6 million to repair it in a transportation bond bill.
The city designed and engineered a new 378-spot structure garage three-story, costing $9.4 million. City officials leaned on the state in hopes to get the money released and then pushed for more. As time went on, the cost escalated to $11 million. 
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.
But last year, the state made it clear to city officials that it wasn't going to build an $11 million garage. The City Council then approved $2 million to tear it down and build a surface lot.
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.

Tags: demolition,   parking garage,   

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Greylock Federal Credit Union Reopens Kellogg Street Branch

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

A crowd gathers for the grand reopening of the Kellogg Street branch.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Greylock Federal Credit Union returned "home" with the grand opening of its newly renovated Kellogg Street branch that also houses the new Community Empowerment Center.
"Why did we invest millions here?" John Bissell, president and chief executive officer, asked before Monday's ribbon-cutting. "Because this is our home. This was Greylock's first home. This nieghborhood has been our heartbeat since 1935."
The expanded and renovated building will not only offer typical banking services but also free counseling to help residents with their financial futures. 
Vice President of Administration Jamie Ellen Moncecchi said Greylock looks to give residents in need the tools and resources to help them navigate their financial lives. She went on to say the center will offer free community education, budgeting and credit building classes, and loan coaching.
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