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Three projects asked for the largest allocation of $175,000: the Berkshire Dream Center's bell tower restoration, Allegrone Companies' restoration of the Wright Building block (above), and the West Legends' first-time homebuyer build.

Pittsfield Council Sees $808K in Community Preservation Funds

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council last week saw 11 Community Preservation Act funding allocations totaling $808,547.  They were referred to the Committee of the Whole for final approval.

An overall funding request of $1,614,363 across 14 projects was shaved down to partial funding for most of the projects, ranging from $7,881 to $175,000.

"Due to the large dollar amount of the requests, the Committee had to prioritize projects of the highest need and immediacy and reduce some funding requests while maintaining the feasibility of the projects," Director of Community Development Justine Dodds wrote in a communication to the council.

"Applicants were asked to revise their request to reflect the minimum amount needed to complete their project if reductions needed to be made."

Three projects asked for the largest allocation of $175,000: the Berkshire Dream Center's bell tower restoration, Allegrone Companies' restoration of the Wright Building block, and the West Legends' first-time homebuyer build.

The bell tower's overall cost is estimated to be nearly $626,000 and the organization requested $390,000. Built in 1911, it has displaced masonry and several locations and the goal is to repair the most critical areas and repoint the masonry so that it is stable again.

"Worse than what you can see is the amount of rain and water damage that is in the backup wythes (verticals) of masonry. What we discovered in Phase 1, is that the masonry backup at these locations are constantly getting washed out from rain and getting displaced from the freeze thaw," the application reads.

"This is highly destabilizing to the tower itself, and if left alone would lead to total collapse. 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 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."

Allegrone has planned a $18 million overhaul of the historic Wright Building and the Jim's House of Shoes property and requested $350,000 in CPA funds.

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.

The funds will assist in the creation of the seven affordable units.

The company also secured a 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.

The Westside Legends requested $350,000 for its $5.8 million first-time homebuyer development on Columbus Avenue, consisting of 12-15 newly constructed townhomes for income-eligible first-time buyers in the West Side. The organization is made up of community leaders from the Westside who want to uplift the neighborhood.

"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 already facilitated over 30 families of color closing on their first homes, with over 40 more prequalified," the application reads.

"WSL is committed to creating quality new housing in this historically redlined neighborhood that is available for purchase, not rent. 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."

This year's proposed allocations amount to $425,000 for community housing, $276,341 for historic resources, and $107,206 for open space and recreation.  $42,555 is resaved for administrative expenses.

The Community Preservation Committee began soliciting CPA proposals in September 2023 and received 17 eligibility applications in the first phase, requesting $1,699,565.  The applications were deemed ineligible and eligible applicants were invited to submit a funding application by February.

Fourteen applications requested a total of $1,614,363 and in late March, the committee voted to fund 11 of the projects.

In June 2023, the council adopted an overall budget of $848,659.58 for the fiscal year 2024 administration of the CPA, including an estimated local surcharge of $450,000, an estimated state match of $132,000, and a carry-over reserve from FY2023 of $266,659.58.

"The actual match from the state was $119,510, lower than anticipated," Dodds reported. "Locally, the City generated $497,409.16, which was slightly higher than the original estimate."

The FY25 CPA budget is $602,555 with an estimated $450,000 raised through the City surcharge and an estimated $110,000 through the state match.

FY24 CPA Projects:

  • Gladys Allen Brigham's Eureka Trail: $55,000
  • Berkshire Regional Planning and Pittsfield Housing Authority's Dower Square Benches: $7,881
  • Pittsfield Department of Community Development, Marchisio Park Improvements:  $24,325
  • Pittsfield Conservation Commission, Cadwell Woods Conservation Restriction: $20,000
  • Berkshire Dream Center's Bell Tower Restoration: $175,000
  • Berkshire Historical Society, Arrowhead Sewer Connection: $30,000
  • The Christian Center, Heating System Replacement: $21,341
  • First Congregational Church of Christ, Sanctuary Boiler Replacement: $50,000
  • Pittsfield Affordable Housing Trust: $75,000
  • Allegrone Companies, Wright Building Block: $175,000
  • Westside Legends, First-Time Homebuyer Program, Columbus Avenue: $175,000

Tags: CPA,   

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Letter: Berkshire State Delegation Needed to Pass Ban on Puppy Mills

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

The public may be aware that I spear-headed local legislation in Pittsfield and Lenox banning the sale of puppies from puppy mills at pet stores. Berkshire Voters for Animals and the Massachusetts Humane Society were strong advocates and helped immensely.

I have received an email from Berkshire Voters for Animals stating, "There is still one of our bills in its original committee that needs to be released by June 14th or it will not have a chance to be passed this session. Time is running out for Massachusetts lawmakers to advance legislation that will prevent commercial dog breeders (puppy mills) from trucking cruelly bred puppies into pet shops. New York, Maryland and California have successfully passed similar laws. Massachusetts should be next!"

The appeal was that "We need you to contact your rep to ask them to contact the House Chair of the Environment Committee to release the bill."

It is my hope that the bill makes it out of committee and not die there, as too many good pieces of proposed legislation often does. I cannot stress how popular these initiatives were. In Pittsfield, I have had ordinances pass that took literally as much as one-half a decade to get passed. No so with this. Dozens upon dozens showed up in support for the ordinance. The Pittsfield City Council passed it immediately, with no debate.

Lenox has an open town meeting where any town resident can show up and vote, and of the dozens upon dozens of people that attended (it may have been over 100, but I am not a good judge of audience size), not a single one voted against the legislation when put to a final vote. In fact, that vote was almost instantaneous.

According to the letter, Sen. Paul Mark and he has spoken with the Senate chair. I respectfully request Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Rep. John Barrett, and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, excellent legislators of the Berkshire Delegation of whom I am fond of, to help pass S.550/H. 826/S. 549, "An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops" before the 2024 legislative session ends. This salutary law is enjoys widespread and practically unanimous support from the public.

Rinaldo Del Gallo
Pittsfield, Mass.




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