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the committee heard a presentation from Allegrone Construction Co., which requested $350 in CPA funds to support an $18 million overhaul of the historic Wright Building and the Jim's House of Shoes property.

Pittsfield CPA Committee OKs Funding Extension, Plans Formal Process

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Historical Commission is seeking an extension for Community Preservation Act funding after a previously awarded project "fell through the cracks."

On Monday, the Community Preservation Committee voted to honor the request and formalize a process for three-year CPA extensions. The commission was awarded $5,000 in two consecutive years for a contractor to do inventory forms on endangered Pittsfield properties.

"My understanding and I don't know what the whole timeline is, one of those year's funding has lapsed, the other hasn't," Historical Commission Chair John Dickson told the committee.

He cited the COVID-19 pandemic and a change of staff as causing the project to lapse. It is not the commission's responsibility to do the hiring for the work, as it is not a contracting agency.

The proposal came out of a project that the panel had done on endangered properties funded by the Massachusetts Historical Planning Project. It was considered best practice at the time to identify properties that were in danger of being torn down before they needed to be demolished.

"They liked it because normally before the Historical Commission the properties come to us only when they are ready to be torn down," Dickson said.

"So this was kind of a pre-demolition opportunity to start identifying buildings around the city."

There are 24 properties with a list of recommendations that could be done, 17 of them were recommended for a Form B document that has an architectural and historical description and can be used by developers to get the full context of a property.

"With the change of staff at the city and with COVID it fell through the cracks," Dickson said.

He was unsure about the timeline of the funding. According to an article, the CPA committee accepted the $10,000 request as eligible.

The city lost touch with its Form B contractors but in January, Dickson and City Planner Jacinta Williams began reaching out to two contractors who are "ready to go" and it should be completed by the end of the year.

Some members of the CPA Committee agreed that it is their responsibility to have a process for extensions. In the near future, a process will be formally documented and approved.

"I think we can take this as a lesson to move forward and develop that," Alexandra Tasak Groff said.

In other news, the committee heard a presentation from Allegrone Construction Co., which requested $350,000 in CPA funds to support an $18 million overhaul of the historic Wright Building and the Jim's House of Shoes property.

The project will combine the two buildings into one development, retaining the commercial storefronts on North Street and providing 35 new rental units, 28 of which will be market-rate units and seven of which will be affordable.

Principal architect Anthony Allegrone explained that the project is in two phases: with the first including 21 residential units and four storefronts and the second including 14 residential units and two storefronts.

A four-story addition is proposed to allow for more residential units than what would fit in just the existing Wright Building. Twenty percent of the units will be restricted to affordable limits at the 80 percent area median income level.

The former shoe store site will be partly demolished, as the bones of the structure are sound.

"As we all know, this is a very much a historic project so the entirety of the facade is going to be preserved," Allegrone said.

"We will be repairing and replacing as needed but ultimately what you see in the Wright Building now is meant to be revitalized and will be maintained."

Part of the project funding includes historic tax credits from the state, of which more than $1.5 million have been allocated to date. Another $3.6 million has been requested from the Housing Development Incentive Program.

The funding gap is currently about $970,000.

The company is also seeking a 10-year tax increment exemption from the city that would freeze the current property values and base value, and phases in the increased property taxes that result from the upgrades, beginning at 100 percent forgiveness in the first year and decreasing by 10 percent each subsequent year over the term.

It is a requirement to receive state tax credits through the HDIP.

The current assessed value of the properties is $497,900 for the Wright Building and $229,900 for the former Jim's House of Shoes property. The redevelopment of these buildings is projected to increase the assessed value of each property to more than $2.5 million and more than $1.9 million, respectively.

"I think your project is very exciting," committee member Elizabeth Herland said. "And I know everybody will be very thrilled there. I'm sure they are thrilled to see that there is something going on with the Wright Building. We hear a lot about that."

It was pointed out that the city has a tight CPA budget for this year with about a $800,000 shortfall and members wondered if it could be viable to split the requested funds between fiscal years.

Tags: CPA,   historical commission,   

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Toy Library Installed at Onota Lake

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Feel free to use or leave a toy at Onota Lake's newest infrastructure meant to foster community and benefit kids.

Burbank Park now has a toy library thanks to Wahconah Regional High School senior Alexandra Bills. Located along the wall at the beach area, the green and blue structure features two shelves with sand toys that can be used to enhance children's visits.

The Parks Commission supported Bills' proposal in February as part of her National Honors Society individual service project and it was installed this month. Measuring about 4 feet wide and 5.8 feet tall, it was built by the student and her father with donated materials from a local lumber company.

Friends and family members provided toys to fill the library such as pails, shovels, Frisbees, and trucks.

"I wanted to create a toy library like the other examples in Berkshire County from the sled library to the book libraries," she told the commission in February.

"But I wanted to make it toys for Onota Lake because a lot of kids forget their toys or some kids can't afford toys."

Bills lives nearby and will check on the library weekly — if not daily — to ensure the operation is running smoothly.  A sign reading "Borrow-Play-Return" asks community members to clean up after themselves after using the toys.

It was built to accommodate children's heights and will be stored during the winter season.

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