Tuesday August 14, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The city on Thursday will formally launch its newly state-recognized Upstreet Cultural District, a designation of the downtown local officials say is intended to promote Pittsfield as a tourist destination for the creative arts and business scene.

A kick-off event is scheduled for 5 p.m. in front of the Berkshire Museum on South Street as part of the monthly Third Thursday celebration.

City and state officials including Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, state Senate President Pro Tempore Stan Rosenberg of Amherst and Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council will be on hand to unveil the first of five MCC-designated cultural districts.

A mother and child tour the classical sculpture at the Berkshire Museum, which will be the site of the Cultural District’s unveiling.
A mother and child tour the classical sculpture at the Berkshire Museum, which will be the site of the Cultural District’s unveiling. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

In addition to Pittsfield, the MCC earlier this year designated cultural districts in Lynn, Gloucester, Rockport and Boston, which plan similar kick-off events later this year, according to MCC officials.

Upstreet Cultural District is a nod to the longtime nickname --"upstreet" -- given the downtown by generations of city residents. The area's boundaries run from East and West Housatonic streets, north to Linden Street and from First to Center streets.

The district encompasses 50 restaurants, wine bars, cafes, as well as retail stores, shops, Berkshire Museum, Colonial Theatre, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Athenaeum and other cultural venues.


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Upstreet also regularly hosts Third Thursdays from May through October, annual events such as the WordXWord Festival and the newly created year-round First Fridays Artswalk.

"Upstreet recognizes all the progress we have made in Pittsfield the past eight years and sets the stage for more progress," said Megan Whilden, the city's director of cultural development.

Van Shields, co-chair of the Upstreet steering committee, noted that part of that progress is improving the visitor experience to the city's cultural district.

"This is an opportunity to work on parking and other amenities to help visitors find it easier to enjoy [Upstreet]," said Shields, the Berkshire Museum's executive director.

Leading up to Thursday's event, the city plans to hang new banners and erect new signs delineating the Upstreet Cultural District. The MCC and Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism also plan to promote Upstreet through their websites.

Laura Roudabush, Upstreet's other co-chair, wasn't surprised Pittsfield was among the initial cities and towns to benefit from the MCC's Cultural District Initiative, part of the economic stimulus bill passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2010.

"Pittsfield was in a solid position to have a state recognized district," said Rouda bush, who is the director of marketing for Barrington Stage. "We already had the assets of a cultural district."

Aside from boosting city tourism, city officials expect the Upstreet Cultural District will help to attract artists, cultural enterprises, encourage business and job growth, preserve and re-use historic buildings, enhance property values and foster local cultural development.

City and state officials have said a cultural district designation also allows a community to access state funds toward enhancing the district.

Berkshire Theatre group players rehearse ‘Me and Juliet’ on Monday at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. The Colonial is part of the new
Berkshire Theatre group players rehearse ‘Me and Juliet’ on Monday at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. The Colonial is part of the new Upstreet Cultural District. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

The MCC has already identified seven other state agencies with funding programs dealing with housing, transportation, recreation, historic preservation and tourism for projects within a state-designated cultural district.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233