Gov. Baker Visits Pittsfield, City Receives State Grants

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is receiving more than $3.6 million in awards through the Community One Stop for Growth portal, including $3 million from MassWorks for the redevelopment of a former General Electric (GE) site.

"Site 9 has been a wound in our community for a very, very long time. It is a scar that's been left behind from a massive 40-acre site that General Electric once occupied," Mayor Linda Tyer said during a presentation at the Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC) Wednesday.

"We're grateful to GE for their generations of support and building our community and they're not here anymore so we're redefining who we are and building a new identity."

The state granted Pittsfield awards for all five of its applications: a $525,000 Underutilized Properties grant for Allegrone, a $55,000 Urban Agenda Award for the Blackshires Community Empowerment Foundation, $15,000 for a collaborative workspace program at the BIC, and $15,000 for another workspace program with the Berkshire Black Economic Council.

Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and other officials announced the awards at the BIC.

The One Stop program involves 12 to 15 different programs funded through bond authorizations, state appropriations, and MassDevelopment.

"The theory here was instead of having cities and towns apply for all these programs individually over the course of time while they're trying to figure out how to actually bundle them all together to do what for, all intensive purposes, is one project, create a big one stuff that makes it possible for people to create sort of a strategic housing and economic development and infrastructure development plan," Baker said.

"And then work with them to make that the vehicle through which we and they work together to get stuff done on behalf of the folks in each of these communities and it's turned out to be an enormously successful program."

Polito pointed out that the portal allows communities to make a wish list of pressing issues or ideas that they need funding for and put them together.

"We set up and we became better as an agency of government to be your consultants, to give you feedback, to help you then craft an application with your PA and others helping you," she said.

"That really stood up and so you became better, we became better, so the quality of the applications became better and the project is better."

She added that it also brought more certainty into the process and helped communities attract more private investment to match.

About $143 million in grant awards will be dispersed to 337 economic development projects and 169 communities around the Commonwealth through the One Stop portal. In all, Berkshire County received $12,089,822.

Of the MassWorks grants, 39 are reactivating underutilized sites, 31 are supporting transit-oriented development projects, and 30 have a mixed-use piece attached to them.  Including this round, these grants have invested over $700 million in public infrastructure projects throughout the state.

The $3 million dollar award, given to the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, will support the conversion of the 16.5-acre parcel into green space, and roadways. Last year, Site 9 received $880,000 in Site Readiness Program funding from the state's Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

Tyer pointed out that the property abuts one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods and a Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) district where economic development activities, resources, and investments are concentrated.

"Yes, it was a parcel occupied by a major corporation, but we believe that small parceling like this is the future economy for the city of Pittsfield," she said.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier pointed out that she stood at the intersection of Tyler Street and Woodlawn Avenue during the video conference for the Site Readiness Grant.  This area was transformed into a roundabout with MassWorks funding and sits right across from Site 9.

Standing at this location, Farley-Bouvier displayed how the commonwealth has partnered with the city of Pittsfield to make economic development progress. She rotated her camera to display the St. Mary's Church renovation into the Morningstar Apartments, the Woodlawn Avenue bridge that was reopened in 2016 to allow for double-decker trains to pass underneath, the BIC in the distance, and Site 9 - all in close vicinity of one another.

"We are building back the neighborhood of Morningside, where I was born by the way, where I was baptized by the way," Farley-Bouvier said.

"This is our place, and we're so proud to build it back up again because we are investing in the people of Pittsfield because the people of Pittsfield have been investing in us."

State Rep. Paul Mark said that Massachusetts is, and should be a model for the country because of its government.

"Every dollar that's being awarded here came out of all of our pockets and all of our friends' pockets and all of our family's pockets and all of our neighbors' pockets," he explained.  

"And it's our responsibility in government, city, town, state, governor, and legislature to make sure that we're spending that money appropriately and I think today is a great example of how that can be done."

Tyer also bid farewell to Baker and Polito, who are not on the ballot for re-election next month.

"We are so grateful for your partnership and your friendship. It feels like you're making a farewell tour around the Commonwealth, and I hope you are enjoying all of the accolades that you are receiving from those of us in local government and local leadership," she said.

"We're so grateful and we want to extend our gratitude and admiration for all you've done for us over the last eight years. You've been here to celebrate our successes and also to help us through hardship and difficult times and you know we are going to really miss you. And our cities and towns are better because of you, and you've become our friends. You're part of our lives. I hope you know that history will be remembered by Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito because our communities will remember you."


Tags: BIC,   MassWorks grant,   state grant,   

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Pittsfield Council Puts North Street Ballot Question to Rest

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The North Street ballot question was put to rest on Tuesday.

In a 7-2 vote, the City Council rescinded a Jan. 24 vote on Councilor at Large Karen Kalinowsky's petition to place a question on the Nov. 7 ballot that asks voters if North Street should return to a four-lane way.

Because Councilor at Large Peter White announced his intention to motion to rescind, it required a majority vote rather than a two-thirds vote, as clarified by City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta.

Kalinowksy insisted that constituents want a say in the road configuration. She feels that the city did not properly consult the council and residents before making the change.

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