Thursday May 31, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- While the organizers of the Berkshire Carousel project consider the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough for a possible site, Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said he wants Pittsfield to remain in the mix.

On Wednesday, Bianchi said the Berkshire Carousel's board of directors "needs to make a hard business decision" regarding where they intend to install the carousel, suggesting The Common on First Street as a possible site.

"They've got to really determine what makes the best business sense for them," Bianchi said. "At one point, [Berkshire Carousel] was not looking for any assistance, but I think the economic realities are going to have cost implications for them."

Berkshire Carousel director Maria Caccaviello told The Eagle on Tuesday that the board will have to decide by July where to install the carousel, which is scheduled to be ready for operation a year from now.

A vacant lot on the corner of Church and Center streets has long been considered the future home of the privately funded initiative. But the organizers estimate that it could cost all but $1 million of the project's estimated $2.5 million total price tag to prepare the site and build an enclosed hall to house it.

The $800,000 that the group has currently raised is covering the $1 million it costs just to make the carousel itself. For the past two years, the group has been building the carousel in rent-free space in the Lanesbrough-based mall.


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The Berkshire Mall is owned by the Pyramid Management Group of Syracuse, N.Y., which owns shopping malls throughout the Northeast. Based on what has occurred already, Bianchi believes that Pyramid has a "strong incentive" to keep the carousel at the mall.

"I don't think this just happened," he said. "Something occurred over the last couple of years. We've really got to see if the group wants to be here. Their original intention was for them to be in Pittsfield. It's something [project founder] Jim Schulman felt very strongly about. I don't know if his vision has changed."

Schulman, a former Pittsfield resident who lives in Galena, Ohio, will meet with Bianchi today at City Hall.

"I'm just going to talk to him about where they are in the planning process right now, and what we can do as a city to help them out," Bianchi said.

He said the city would be willing to consider federal or state grant funding to assist the carousel project if it wants to remain in Pittsfield.

The head of a Pittsfield business group is also interested in keeping the carousel within the city limits.

Phil Massery, the president of the Pittsfield chapter of Rotary International, said he intends to approach other city civic groups about the possibility of raising funds to keep the carousel in the city.

"Wouldn't this be a great cause for the civic groups of Pittsfield to band together and help them raise money?" Massery said. "I know I can get people behind this real quick."

Bianchi said the city would welcome help from any organization that offers assistance.

"Absolutely," he said. "Any effort as a community to make this a part of our community, we certainly would welcome it."

In a written statement, Bianchi also took issue with comments made by Ward 6 Councilor John M. Krol Jr., who said he was "deeply disappointed that we didn't have the vision to keep the Berkshire Carousel in Pittsfield."

"Pittsfield not only has a vision for the carousel, the city included it in the master plan for The Common," Bianchi said. "The city has offered them organizational development advice, conferred with them about potential sites, embraced them as part of the city's 250th celebration [last year], and always said The Common was a viable option."

In his statement, Bianchi said the Berkshire Carousel's board of directors have two options.

"The first is the mall, which is offering free space and other incentives, and the second is The Common -- a beautiful park where they would fit right in and be the Pittsfield landmark that the carousel organizers always imagined," he said.

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