Tuesday November 20, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The owners of the longest serving retirement home in Berkshire County say they want to build a larger, modern facility on South Street to better serve their residents.

Berkshire Retirement Home Inc. plans to build a new Berkshire Place at the corner of South and George streets, about a half-mile south of the existing home on South Street between the Berkshire Museum and Colonial Theatre.

Berkshire Retirement is looking to buy the former St. Teresa's Church at 290 South St. and the adjacent office building at 276 South St. The developer plans to demolish them and construct a 44,000-square-foot residence on the combined 3.51-acre site, according to the nonprofit's Exec utive Director Edward Forfa.

If approved by the city and Mas sachusetts Department of Public Health, Forfa said the 54-bed, $10 million project could get under way by late spring and be completed by the summer of 2014. It would replace the 44-bed Berkshire Place at 89 South St., which was built in 1888 as a retirement home for women.

"We're doing this because of the age of the existing building," Forfa said on Monday. "We want to replicate what we offer today with more amenities."

Overseen by a board of directors, Berkshire Place provides around-the-clock nursing care for both long- and short-term residents.

"Short-term nursing rehabilitation has been growing and we want to expand on that at the new home," Forfa said. "We want to help more folks when they get out of the hospital before they go home."

Tonight, Berkshire Retire ment officials will seek site plan approval for their project from the Pittsfield Community Development Board.

The board meets 7 p.m. at City Hall.

In addition, the Pittsfield Historical Commission must sign off on razing the office building because it's more than 75 years old, according to the city's Department of Com munity Development.

Furthermore, Berkshire re tirement needs a special permit and variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, according to city officials. The ZBA hearing is set for Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

City Planner C.J. Haas cited how ZBA approval is necessary because Pittsfield zoning requires at least four acres of land for a nursing home be tween 50 and 100 beds. The 54-bed Berkshire Place would sit on a 3.51-acre parcel.

"While we don't like to see a [former] church come down, it's tough to re-use such a building," Haas said. "This project would be a positive re-use for the property."

Built in 1954, St. Teresa's was one of six Pittsfield Churches the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield shut down in the summer of 2008.

The remaining tenants in office building next door to the church are expected to vacate the premises before Berkshire Retirement buys the real estate. How many tenants are left was unclear on Monday as The Eagle was unable to contact the current owner.

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