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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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PCTV Documentary Finds Pittsfield Parade Dates Back to 1801

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield Community Television's recently released documentary "Fighting For Independence:  The History of the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade" has traced the first Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade back to at least 1801.  

An article in the Pittsfield Sun from July 7, 1801, says that "at 12:00 o’ clock at noon a Procession was formed consisting of the Militia of the town."

Previously the Pittsfield Parade Committee acknowledged that the parade dated back to 1824.

"This was a fascinating discovery, as we researched to put this documentary together," said Bob Heck, PCTV’s coordinator of advancement and community production and executive producer of the program.  "Not only were we able to trace the parade back further than ever before, but to see how the parade has impacted Pittsfield, and how the community always seems to come together to make sure the parade happens is remarkable."

The Pittsfield Fourth of July parade experienced bumps in the road even back in the early 1800s - most notably, when Captain Joseph Merrick, a Federalist, excluded Democrats from the yearly post-parade gathering at his tavern in 1808.

The parade ran concurrently from at least 1801 until 1820. In 1821, Pittsfield’s spiritual leader Dr. Rev. Heman Humphrey, canceled the festivities so the day could be dedicated to God before resuming in 1822 after residents decided they wanted their parade.

"Fighting for Independence: The History of the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade" premiered July 4 at 9:30 am on PCTV Access Pittsfield Channel 1301 and PCTV Select.  The program is available on-demand on PCTV Select, available on Roku and Apple TV, or online.

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