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Railroad Street Youth Project mural 'Rooted in Connection' was unveiled at Pittsfield's Juneteenth celebration and is expected to be installed at Tucker Park.

Pittsfield Parks Commission Supports Mural at Tucker Park

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Tucker Park is staged to receive a mural with a powerful message.

The Parks Commission on Tuesday approved the location for a piece of art from the Westside Mural Project, which was kicked off in May to re-imagine the neighborhood as a canvas with neighbors as the artists.

The 8-foot work was created by the Railroad Street Youth Project in Great Barrington and is titled "Rooted in Connection." It was unveiled over the weekend at the city's first Juneteenth festival in Durant Park, where the project's other murals are displayed.

It is a colorful, collaborative work made by the children of the project and lists their names in the design.

Organizer Kamaar Taliaferro read a statement about the mural from co-Executive Director and the Vice President of the Berkshire County NAACP Sabrina Allard.

"Railroad Street Youth Project staff and youth constituents worked together to create this free flow mural. Our process is a practice of spontaneous flow and building off of each other's work," he read.

"We started with the question: What can we create that is enjoyable to experience, colorful, and leaves the community park more beautiful and interesting? What can we create together as we flow?  In thinking about Juneteenth throughout this process, we thought about what freedom and joy means to us. This mural is a story about connection with affirmations of love and authenticity throughout."

The approval was made pending a suitable location being found within the park. This week, Taliaferro will meet with the park superintendent on site to settle on a spot for it.

"I think that this mural, in particular, has a little bit of a fitting home at Tucker Park because it's immediately across from the Christian Center, who is here today talking about their community day and also offers so many services to our most vulnerable members," Taliaferro said.

"And so my hope is that people in the park will see this and will feel a sense of agency in telling their own stories and expressing themselves, people who are walking by will be reminded of their worthiness and their capability and their dignity, and that it will add to what is already a vibrant neighborhood."

It is envisioned to be installed on the fence that surrounds the park's basketball court. The fence will be examined to make sure that it is strong enough to hold the mural.

Taliaferro envisions it being installed for about three years.

"I think it's a great location,"  Commissioner Anthony DeMartino said.

"I think once we can find the right location within that location, and as long as once it's decided on you feel like alright, that's going to present this the way you'd like it to be presented, if that all comes together then absolutely I would make a motion to approve that location pending all of that coming together. But if it comes out that we just can't make it work there for whatever circumstances let's come together and find another spot for it."

It was pointed out that the mural will be low maintenance and commissioners also want to make sure it is placed in a direction that makes it less likely to be vandalized.

In other news, the commission approved a final master plan for the revisioning of Pontoosuc Lake Park.

The design includes a swimming area, floating docks, an accessible kayak and canoe launch, changing facilities, an open lawn, and a shoreline walk on the north side of the park. On the south side off of Hancock Road, there are new access stairs, a lake promenade and pier, wetland and shore restorations, new picnic areas, and accessible paths and parking. To connect the two parks, there will be a new sidewalk to improve transit or pedestrians.

The commission also gave the city the OK to move forward with a project to address parking concerns at Deming Park, recognizing that it has been a long-standing issue during Babe Ruth and Little League baseball season.

The panel was given a conceptual layout that includes newly paved parking for 68 spaces, one way in and one way out, and some reconfiguration.

"I think it's important for us to pull our park patrons back into Deming Park with a smart design that improves safety, increases handicap accessibility, imagines that space improved between the two baseball fields, accommodates a small practice field, and just generally looks at Deming Park for a really sensible and important upgrade," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

"We understand that this is all floodplain. We'll work very closely with the Conservation Commission to make certain that we're handling stormwater and then that we're not decreasing the flood storage capacity, that may provide some permitting challenges but I think we can we can get there. For better or for worse, Deming Park is a small park sandwiched in the middle of dense neighborhoods. I think we can respect that in an intelligent way for the future."

There are no funds currently in place for the project but that is the next phase, he disclosed.

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Pittsfield's Former Polish Club Eyed For $20 Million Condo Project

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With a sizable grant from the state, the former Polish Community Club is eyed for a 40-unit housing development that adds four additional buildings to the property.

On Wednesday, the Affordable Housing Trust heard from developer Robert Shan about the project that could cost as much as $20 million.  Planners are vying for $10 million through the MassHousing CommonWealth Builder Program created to facilitate the construction of single-family homes and condominiums affordable to households with moderate incomes.

"We're looking not just to do a one-off but to have a presence in Pittsfield, a presence in Berkshire County, and look to bring forward attainable and affordable housing to many communities," he said.

"We see this as as as the first step and it's ready to go. We've put a tremendous amount of work into it and we're looking forward to being able to work with you."

While utilizing the former club, the plot at 55 Linden Street would have five buildings of one to three-bedroom condominiums for first-time homebuyers.  The final costs have not yet been determined but it is estimated that a unit for those of the 80 percent area median income will cost between $150,000 and $200,000 and those in between 80 and 100 percent AMI will cost between $190,000 and $250,000.

The proposed condos are single-story units with an entrance from the street with the first-floor units having a private fenced backyard.  The existing building is staged for single-story condos and two-story townhouses.

Planners aim to bring the character of the 1872 structure into the new construction through colors and architectural elements.

"In developing housing for first-time buyers, we wanted a form that all had entries from grade, from outside without common corridors, without elevators to get that feeling of homeownership," Shan explained.

"While we can't afford to build and get these first-time families at the single-family homes, we wanted a hybrid product that really felt and operated like a home where a lot of the units have backyards, is its own community, etc. So in that, we have not maximized the density."

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