PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The final request for proposals for the development of the century-old Morningside fire station has been released.
Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer gave the City Council an update on some city projects Tuesday and said the RFP for the historic fire station was released earlier in February.
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi asked for an update from Ruffer via petition and wanted to know why it had taken so long to release the RFP.
"This has been moving really slowly, and we have been told back in November that an RFP would be going out," Morandi said. "We all know the condition that building is in and we are letting it sit through another winter."
The city has released RFPs on multiple occasions, the first one being in 2013 as well as subsequent ones in January 2014, March 2017, and in May 2017.
Ruffer explained that on these occasions, there were either no bidders or no qualified bidders. She said the city needs to make sure a potential developer actually develops the structure and it fits in the city's vision for the Morningside neighborhood.
"We want it to be redeveloped in a timely manner so it does not remain a blighted property," she said. "As the council knows, once it is in private ownership we have a challenge in being able to address blight."
She said her department took more time to develop this RFP to make the prospect more attractive. She said they included a hazard mitigation assessment as well as other analysis.
"We wanted to make sure we made it as attractive as possible," Ruffer said. "We compiled as much data about the condition of the building as we were able to."
She added that they have offered possible developers more time in the building and wanted to be more active in showing the building.
It may be working because there has already been interest.
Alas, if there are no bites on this RFP round, Ruffer said the city will have to seek funds to demolish the building.
Morandi said he would not support this.
"I don't want to see that building torn down," he said. "I will be honest with you. I will fight that tooth and nail."
Other councilors felt differently and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio remembered past notable buildings that although unpopular had to come down -- specifically an old market that is now a well-used parking lot.
"They are sad times but sometimes we have to take down a building," he said.
The 1906 building, which has not been used as a fire station since 1970, had been utilized over the intervening years for storage. It has decayed significantly since it was permanently closed in 2008. While structurally sound, the building suffers from an ailing roof, water leaks and other issues.
Ruffer also gave an update on the city's planned acquisition Hess gas station on Tyler Street.
"We continue to honor our obligation to be ready to take that," she said.
MassDevelopment is actively looking to secure the building, and Ruffer said she was limited in what she could say because negotiations are still underway.
"It is a very small property in the holdings of a very large company and the company acquired this property through a series of acquisitions of companies," she said. "It was three companies ago that site was in operation. It is a very small part of the owner's portfolio."
Once MassDevelopment acquires the property, it will transfer it to the city. She said the city has already allocated $200,000 to clean up the site and ultimately turn it into green space.
The council also received an update on the Fire Department training tower at the Peck's Road fire station. Fire Chief Thomas Sammons said the burn tower needs some repairs.
"The building was designed to be abused but it is nearly 70 years old and it's showing its age," Sammons said. "In my opinion, it is a liability. Firefighting is a dangerous occupation to begin with and we need to be able to train for fires."
He said he has met with a SK Design and toured the structure and will return with a report with different repair options.
The council voted to send the item to the Public Health and Safety subcommittee, which will also tour the tower in the spring.
The council also accepted a communication from the mayor in regard to the police station.
Maffuccio had submitted a petition last month asking for an update on the deteriorating police station across from City Hall and if the city had any plans to replace it.
Mayor Linda Tyer responded that at this moment in time, there has been no change in the status of constructing a new police station. She wrote that in the next six months, her administrative team will undertake a review of the next steps for moving the project into the next phase of development.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Local Real Estate Firm Trying to Support Small Businesses
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Nocher Realty is lending a helping hand to fellow businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"If we don't support them through these unusual times they won’t be there when this all blows over, when business is back to normal we need these shops back in action," owner Jason Nocher said. "Small business is the backbone of the Berkshires."
Nocher Realty has partnered with various businesses throughout Berkshire County including the Corner Lunch and Berkshire Printing & Embroidery.
In many cases, Nocher has purchased something directly from the local business to help sustain and promote it. Like purchasing 50 breakfast sandwiches from the Corner Lunch and using its Facebook page to invite the public grab one, first come, first served.
The online store features a variety of vendors and is open to all local residents. Those who have SNAP benefits or those who have recently lost their jobs or are facing economic hardship from the pandemic are eligible for $30 a week in free food from the Virtual Farmers Market.
click for more
Inspired by the book "We're Going on a Bear Hunt," which Susan Wrba likes to read with her 2-year-old son, Wrba is organizing a "bear hunt" across the Berkshires from Friday, April 3, to Sunday, April 5. click for more