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Earlier this month it was announced that the Pittsfield Suns have decided to pause this year's baseball season at Wahconah Park two years after the grandstand was condemned.

Pittsfield Historical Commission Plans Wahconah Park Project Support

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Historical Commission will draft a letter in support of revitalization efforts at Wahconah Park.

While the proposed project raises and rebuilds the historical grandstand, commissioners recognize it is necessary due to existing conditions.  One member of the panel has expressed a wish to see more historical materials used on the exterior.

"I think that we should be careful here for two reasons. Number one, because we're going to be supporting tearing down a structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and so to me, that means that our letter should be fairly specific about what we're supporting," Matthew Herzberg said.

"And I think I join most of you, and probably all of you, in supporting this project and thinking that this project is a really great thing for the city."

At the last meeting, Herzberg criticized the exterior brick on the $26.3 million design, as it does not match the current aesthetic, and the community "doesn't necessarily have a strong brick-making tradition."

He read aloud historical documentation that describes the circa 1950 Wahconah Park grandstand as a simple structure consisting of mostly steel.  It states that "the spare utilitarian lines mirror its New England heritage, a functional building set in a beautiful set in beautiful surroundings of mountains, lakes, rivers, and wooded expanses, all of which are in scale with the humankind who lives there."

"I think that the issues with the proposed design for me really highlight the kind of contradiction between what is being proposed and what this was," Herzberg said, explaining that the current structure comes out of the tradition of lighter buildings with wood and metal rather than brick and metal.

Chair John Dickson agreed to draft a letter of support for the commission to vote on at a later date.

"It really depends on the wording," he said. "And I'll make a first stab at it and send it around and, again, be very specific about what we're supporting."

Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath reported that the architects and design team have mulled Herzberg's feedback and there is "some willingness to pivot."

"We're also at this point of value engineering the project, meaning we're trying to look at all parts and pieces and figure out if we're using the right materials and where we can find some cost savings and that's a part of it," he said.

"So we are looking at that closer and if that is a comment that resonates with your commission and ends up in a letter, I certainly think we can try to honor that."

McGrath came to the commission last month after the Massachusetts Historical Commission stated that it "encourages consideration of project alternatives that would preserve the historic grandstand."

Planners were taken aback by the correspondence and hired Epsilon Associates to guide these conversations.  A letter of support from the local historical commission is seen as a valuable component of conversations.

"I think we've shown adequately to the historical commission that the preservation of the grandstand would be a tough sell for the project just simply because the superstructure of the grandstand is so compromised and it really does make sense to pursue a raise and rebuild but to do it in such a way that maintains the existing footprint, roofline, and general overall character and those character-defining features of the grandstand in the new design," McGrath said, adding that these points would need to be emphasized in the letter.

He explained that the project also meets current building codes, especially for ADA compliance.  It also addresses flooding concerns, as the plan raises the building outside of the 100-year floodplain.

"We're trying to create a building which is accessible to everyone in this community, currently, that building isn't, and one that just provides some modern amenities and sits outside of the floodplain," he said.

Earlier this month it was announced that the Pittsfield Suns have decided to pause this year's baseball season at Wahconah Park two years after the grandstand was condemned.

"They've expressed to the city that the past two seasons without the option to use the grandstand, they've been losing money in a significant sum," McGrath reported.

This season will be filled with baseball and non-baseball community events but the goal is to welcome a professional team back to the new facility after it is completed.


Tags: baseball,   Wahconah Park,   

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North Street Parking Study Favors Parallel Parking

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A parking study of North Street will be presented at Tuesday's City Council meeting. The design maintains parallel parking while expanding pedestrian zones and adding protected bike lanes.

The city, by request, has studied parking and bike lane opportunities for North Street and come up with the proposal staged for implementation next year. 

While the request was to evaluate angle parking configurations, it was determined that it would present too many trade-offs such as impacts on emergency services, bike lanes, and pedestrian spaces.

"The commissioner has been working with Downtown Pittsfield Inc. and my office to come up with this plan," Mayor Peter Marchetti said during his biweekly television show "One Pittsfield."

"We will probably take this plan on the road to have many public input sessions and hopefully break ground sometime in the summer of 2025."

Working with Kittleson & Associates, the city evaluated existing typical sections, potential parking
configurations, and a review of parking standards. It compared front-in and back-in angle parking and explored parking-space count alterations, emergency routing, and alternate routes for passing through traffic within the framework of current infrastructure constraints.

The chosen option is said to align with the commitment to safety, inclusivity, and aesthetic appeal and offer a solution that enhances the streetscape for pedestrians, businesses, cyclists, and drivers without compromising the functionality of the corridor.

"The potential for increasing parking space is considerable; however, the implications on safety and the overall streetscape call for a balanced approach," Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales wrote.

Bike lanes and parking have been a hot topic over the last few years since North Street was redesigned.

In September 2020, the city received around $239,000 in a state Shared Streets and Spaces grant to support new bike lanes, curb extensions, vehicle lane reductions, and outdoor seating areas, and enhanced intersections for better pedestrian safety and comfort.

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