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Transformative Development Initiative Fellow Julie Copoulos outlines the three-year program's progress in bringing life to North Street and its goals for 2024.

Pittsfield TDI Partnership Aids Downtown Businesses, Activates Spaces

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A total of $469,000 aided downtown businesses through MassDevelopment's Transformative Development Initiative last year. 

On Tuesday, TDI Fellow Julie Copoulos outlined the three-year program's progress in bringing life to North Street and its goals for 2024.

"Recently someone said to me, 'Well, you know, mayor, we need to start getting some storefronts open,' and thanks to Julie's work, we have six or seven new downtown businesses," Mayor Peter Marchetti said.

Since 2022, Copoulos has collaborated with over 20 stakeholders in the TDI district to foster equitable investment. Efforts are focused on housing, pedestrian infrastructure, public spaces, and small businesses.

"Tonight I want to highlight a few early wins for the council," she said.

Downtown Pittsfield became a TDI district a couple of years ago after the initiative was successfully applied to Tyler Street. TDI concentrates economic development activities, resources, and investments within designated neighborhood areas for a term of two to four years. The districts are mixed-use with a commercial component, compact, and defined by a walkable, dense physical environment.

In 2023, $469,000 in investments supported small businesses directly and indirectly through equity and local grants and an additional $125,000 will launch on Friday to support support existing businesses by providing direct grants and consulting and improving community connections.

The equity grants are administered by the state and the local grants are administered by partners in the area. Eight businesses secured funding including Marie's North Street Eatery, Brazzuca's Brazilian Market, and BB's Hot Spot at The Lantern.

A $65,000 TDI Creative Catalyst grant funded a series of "Let it Shine" murals, "The Lab" technology at the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires, and Pittsfield Community Design Center.

Looking ahead, there is a focus on activating spaces such as Dunham Mall and Burbank Place with plans for lighting, seating, art and programming guided by community input. Designs will be unveiled in just weeks. A hearing was held for the activation of the two alleyways last month.

The project has secured $52,000 of its $70,000 goal through a $35,000 Commonwealth Places grant, $15,000 from Pittsfield Beautiful, and $2,000 from NBT Bank's partnership with the Let It Shine! public art program. A fundraiser was launched for the $18,000 gap, as the $35,000 state grant needs to be matched by the community.

Last year, the city unveiled eight new murals through the public art partnership with local artists, Downtown Pittsfield Inc., and the TDI.

Behind the scenes, artist housing is being explored with theater nonprofits, identifying underutilized spaces for downtown mixed-use housing development.

"I want to emphasize that this progress and process is driven by local partners and leaders," Copoulos said. "I'm pleased to work with the hardworking and innovative people of Pittsfield every day."

She reported that since coming to the district, 18 to 20 businesses have opened in the downtown.

"I appreciate the work that you do," Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey said, explaining that there was a time before the pandemic when the corridor was bustling and he feels it is returning to that way.  

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Dalton Board of Health Approves Green Burial Verbiage

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — The Board of Health approved wording for the green burial guidelines during its meeting on Wednesday. 
The guideline stipulates that "Ebola or any other diseases that the CDC or Massachusetts Department of Public Health deem unsuitable for green burials can not be approved by the town Board of Health." 
The board has been navigating how to include communicable diseases in its guidelines to prevent them from spreading.  
Town Health Agent Agnes Witkowski has been working to clarify the state's guidelines regarding infectious diseases and green burials. 
She attended a presentation on green burials and consulted with people from various organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where it was determined that the state is behind in developing guidelines for green burials.
Currently, the only disease that would prevent someone from being able to have a green burial is ebola, board member Amanda Staples-Opperman said. Bugs would take care of anything else. 
The town running into situations surrounding an unknown disease would be a very rare occurrence, board members said. 
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