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Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer described the long-vacant Tyer Street firehouse as 'four walls with a caved-in roof.'

Pittsfield Council OKs TIE Agreement for Tyler Street Firehouse Redevelopment

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday approved a 10-year tax increment exemption (TIE) agreement for the conversion of the Tyler Street firehouse into four residential units.

The TIE agreement will save developer CT Management around $55,000 in residential taxes and will bring in about $65,000 into the city.

In the past, the property has not generated any tax dollars.

The order was approved in a 7-2 vote with Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi and Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell opposing.

Morandi was concerned with adding more market-rate housing to a low socioeconomic status area and Connell believed the base value of the property was set too low.

Councilor at Large Earl Persip III and Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon were absent.

This agreement is the residential version of tax increment financing. It was approved by the subcommittee on Community and Economic Development last week.

One hundred percent of an incremental increase will be forgiven for two years and then it will drop to 80 percent for years three and four, 60 percent for years five and six, 40 percent for years seven and eight, and 20 percent for years nine and 10.
CT Management's entire investment into the property is estimated to be $1,250,000.

Before managing partner David Carver's interest in the early 1900s building, it was staged to be demolished after being put out for bid six times. Previously, two interested developers submitted redevelopment proposals for the firehouse but were not able to execute the plans.

It has been out of use since the 1970s and Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer described it as "four walls with a caved-in roof."

The company has converted churches into the Power House Lofts on Seymour Street, the Notre Dame Residences on Melville Street, and the Morning Star Apartments on Tyler. It has also converted a church in North Adams and another in Williamstown into housing.

Councilor at Large Pete White highlighted this while recognizing the need for diverse and affordable housing.

"Through these projects, [Carver] has been able to save at least two churches in Pittsfield, we're looking at saving a historic firehouse with this one," he said. "These are not cheap projects and for what has to go into them, that is why they have to demand higher rent."

He added that it is important to make sure that other housing options are available but the Tyler Street firehouse would have been torn down if not utilized for this project. Similarly, he referenced St. Mary's Church — now Morningstar Apartments — that was proposed to be developed into a Dunkin' Donuts.

White also said plenty of businesses have expressed the need for this kind of housing to attract new employees.

Morandi said he has observed around 73 market-rate units that have been created on Tyler Street and he thinks that finding tenants will be difficult. He cited a concern for such developments leaving less space for affordable units.

He also believes the request for proposals process was handled incorrectly.

"I don't like or agree with the RFP process from start to finish," Morandi said. "This building could have been saved over a year ago, by a contractor, not a developer, and given the proper attention sooner."

Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell questioned the formula used to calculate the base value of the property, speculating that the city's determination of $112,900 seems too low.

Ruffer said the process for TIFs and TIEs is done by assessors in consultation with her staff.

Carver has explained that the TIE will help with expenses and reduce rent costs for tenants. With it, he is able to reduce rents by about $200, bringing them down to around $1,800 a month.

The City Council previously approved a $100,000 allocation from the fiscal 2022 Community Preservation Act fund to go toward the firehouse's roof that is in dire condition.

The projected completion date for the project is the fall of 2022. 

Tags: fire station,   housing development,   tax exemption,   

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PITTSFIELD, Mass — Berkshire Community College (BCC) recently released its enrollment data for fall 2021 — a season still  impacted by COVID-19, but with a growing number of first-year and continuing students. 
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