PITTSFIELD -- Developers of a proposed 54-bed, $10 million retirement home on South Street have cleared the first of four regulatory hurdles.

The Pittsfield Community Development Board on Tuesday night, without debate, unanimously approved Berkshire Retire ment Home Inc.'s plans to build a new Berkshire Place at the corner of South and George streets. The large-scale residence would replace the existing home about a half-mile north between the Berkshire Museum and Colonial Theatre.

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

Next week, Berkshire Retire ment will seek a special permit and variance from the city's Zoning Board of Appeals. Additional approval is needed by the Pittsfield Historical Commission and Massachu setts Department of Public Health, which oversees retirement and nursing homes.

If approved by the city and state, Berkshire Place Execu tive Director Edward Forfa had said the 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.

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 site, according to the nonprofit's development team.

Project architect Patrick Mix dorf vowed to design and build a 2.5-story facility that fits the character of the neighborhood.

"The building sort of nestles into the site," said Mixdorf. "We want to vary the roof lines so it doesn't look like a very big building."

City officials and the developer 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.

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.

The developer initially had looked at converting the nearly 60-year-old church and its ancillary buildings into a retirement home, but it proved to be cost prohibitive.

"It would cost too much to retrofit them and they couldn't accommodate a state-of-the-art nursing home," said attorney Emil George, representing Berkshire Retirement.

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.

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

What's next ...

The Pittsfield Zoning Board of Appeals will consider Berk shire Retirement's request for a special permit and variance at the board's next meeting, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, at City Hall.