Thursday May 3, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- With the sounds of midday traffic serving as a backdrop, city and state officials gathered on First Street on Wednesday to recognize the completion of the first phase of the upgrading of one of Pittsfield's oldest urban open spaces.

The $1.7 million completion of the first phase of the First Street Common reclamation project has "breathed new life into the Common," said Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi.

"It's a park that has been an essential focal point for this neighborhood and community but unfortunately lost its luster many years ago," said Bianchi of the Common, which served as a city cemetery before it became a city park in 1883.

"Its beauty and functionality have now been restored," he said.

The $4.6 million project, which consists of four phases, was funded through the Gateway City Urban Parks Program, a state initiative that aims to restore parks and open spaces in Massachusetts' 24 Gateway communities, which include Pittsfield.

The $1.7 million first phase, which included $250,000 in city funding, involved the construction of a concrete promenade at the Common's entrance, new traffic signals at the intersection of First and Eagle streets, a new playground, fences, retaining walls and lights, and the relocation of the city's skateboard park to Pittsfield High School property.

It's unclear when the second phase will start.

"It hasn't been determined yet because we don't have all the resources in place," said city parks and open space manager James McGrath.


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"We're trying to identify those now."

State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan Jr. said land preservation in the state's urban areas is a key priority of Gov. Deval L. Patrick's administration. According to Sullivan, the state has invested $200 million in public and private partnerships to conserve more than 88,000 acres during the five years Patrick has been in office.

"It's a priority to invest in new and redeveloped parks in every one of the Gateway cities," Sullivan said.

McGrath said the city plans to pitch the redevelopment of another city park to the state in a future round of funding.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier,
D-Pittsfield, said teamwork between city and state officials led to the first phase's completion.

"It's people working together that made this happen," she said, referring to the City Council and members of the Department of Community Development. "I'm very happy to be here today. I love this project. It's beautiful."

When the project is further along, Park Commission chairman John Herman believes the First Street Common will provide the public with space for the types of recreational pursuits that are seen on the Boston Common.

"I think the second phase will help that," Herman said.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.
On Twitter: @tonydobrow