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Allegrone Companies is seeking $350,000 in CPA funds to support an $18 million reconstruction of the former Jim's House of Shoes building on North Street that will include 35 mixed-income residential units.

Pittsfield CPA Committee Deems 16 Applications Eligible

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Preservation Committee has seen a healthy amount of funding applications compared to last year.

The panel this week deemed 16 applications as eligible to submit a fiscal 2024 funding application — one of which is conditionally eligible. The total ask is about $1.7 million and the city has around $966,000 to disperse.

In FY23, the city saw nine eligibility applications totaling about $860,000.

"That was tough meeting today. We usually don't have it so tough for eligibility," Chair Danielle Steinmann joked at the end of the nearly 2 1/2-hour meeting Monday.

This year there are six applications for open space and recreation, three for community housing, and seven for historic preservation.

The largest asks are for bell tower restoration at the Berkshire Dream Center, Allegrone's redevelopment of the Wright Building on North Street, and the Westside Legend's first-time buyer program. All exceed $300,000.

The Berkshire Dream Center, located on Tyler Street, is seeking $390,000 in CPA funds for restoring and preserving the bell tower of its historic property built in 1911.

This is part of a more than $625,000 project that also includes work on the remainder of the building and on the main stairs. CPA funds are being sought through historic preservation for the bell tower, which was identified as the most critical item to be completed because it is destabilizing and could collapse if not repaired.

"Fully repairing the tower is vital to the longevity and safety of the building with the programs that are currently offered to the community within it," the application reads.

"The speed at which the tower will lose integrity will increase every year that it's left alone, as will the cost to rebuild this part of the historic building. The main goal of this project is to repair the most critical areas and repoint all of the masonry on the tower to be stable and secure again."

Allegrone Companies is seeking $350,000 in CPA funds to support a more than $17.9 million project to "transform the downtown city block between Summer Street and Columbus Avenue by way of adaptive reuse" of the historic building and new construction at the former Jim's House of Shoes.

The application is submitted under historic preservation and community housing, as 35 mixed-income residential units are included in the plan.

"$350,000 is requested to assist in closing the gap to make this project a reality, while also demonstrating a local commitment, allowing the project to command a strong application to (The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities) for a critical overall funding piece to the redevelopment, the (Housing Development Incentive Program) tax credit," it reads.

"While this does not solve the overall funding gap for the redevelopment, but assists in closing the gap that is created by restricting 7 units to affordable versus market rate."

The Westside Legends is seeking $350,000 to support a $5.8 million affordable housing project on Columbus Avenue for first-time homebuyers. The request would cover $80,000 in soft costs and $270,00 in construction.

The organization comprises community leaders from the Westside of Pittsfield who are committed to uplifting the neighborhood adjacent to Pittsfield's downtown. After learning from Greylock Federal Credit Union that there had only been two mortgage applicants of color over the past five years, WSL developed a first-time homebuyer program that has facilitated more than 30 families of color closing on their first homes, with another 40 more prequalified.

"WSL is committed to creating quality new housing in this historically redlined neighborhood that is available for purchase, not rent," the application reads. "In this endeavor, WSL is supported by Mass and Cambridge Housing Authority to develop a pilot project of 10-15 affordable townhouses at 363 Columbus Ave."

In a letter of support, the Cambridge Housing Authority explained that it is providing technical assistance as well as the creation, evaluation, and implementation of the financial aspects of the development.  Since 2010, the housing authority has secured over $1 billion in financing to fund improvements impacting more than 2,050 units

"We are inspired by how Westside Legends' Home Ownership program has successfully provided first-time homebuyers opportunities across the community," the letter reads.

"Now, the 363 Columbus Ave. project plays a critical role in expanding affordable housing, as well as creating wealth for low-to-moderate incomes families, in a neighborhood that is core to Pittsfield's continued revitalization."

A $25,000 application from the Berkshire Natural Resource Council to place a conservation restriction on the about 50-acre Scace family farm and woodland, excluding an area for the house lot, was approved on the condition that the city is the co-holder on the restriction. The total cost of the restriction is about $189,000.

BNRC says this project has high conservation value due to its adjacency to Yokum Ridge and Mass Audubon and includes a portion of Mud Pond, a critical habitat for at least five rare and endangered species.

"Protection of this property has long-term benefits for both conservation and agriculture," the application reads.

"Keeping agricultural lands intact — especially open farmland — is critical to environmental, wildlife and climate resilience. The owners are careful stewards of the land; theirs is primarily a haying operation, and they make it a priority to keep the grasslands open, protect vulnerable nesting birds, such as bobolinks, by delaying mowing, engage in habitat improvement projects, and manage invasive species."

The farm recently went through a generational transfer and was at risk of subdivision for housing development. One member of the family and his wife made a commitment to conserving the farm and are eager to work with BNRC, offering the restriction at a less than fair market value.

All FY24 eligibility applications can be found here.


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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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