Saturday December 8, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The city has received a $400,000 state grant to complete the funding required for the second phase of the First Street Common redevelopment project.

It will cost $925,000 to complete the second phase of improvements. That sum also includes $500,000 in city funds through a capital appropriation, and an additional $25,000 in leftover funding from the project’s first phase.

The city’s capital appropriation was approved with the understanding that it would kick in after the city received the additional $400,000 in state funding, said James McGrath, Pittsfield’s parks, open space and natural resources program manager. Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said he believed the city approved the capital funding in 2011.

The $1.7 million first phase, which included $250,000 in city funding, began in November 2010 and was completed in May. The entire $4.6 million project consists of four phases. Total completion hinges on when state funding is available.

"We were lucky to access additional funds immediately on the heels of phase one," McGrath said. "We hope to have the same success for phases three and four."

Design work for the second phase of improvements is scheduled to take place this winter and spring, with the actual improvements slated for the summer of 2013. The Common’s playground will remain open while the second phase of improvements takes place.

"I think it allows us to give the attention that the Common deserves," Bianchi said, referring to the project’s second phase.


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"We’ve done some nice things. Now we have the ability to actually address the wide expanse, level the ground there and really make it beautiful."

The first phase was funded by the Gateway City Urban Parks Initiative.

State funding for the second phase came from the Depart-ment of Conservation Service’s PARC Program, as part of a $2.2 million state initiative designed to enhance parks and recreational facilities in seven Western Massachusetts communities, McGrath said. Both initiatives are managed by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The second phase of improvements include work to achieve a consistent grade throughout the park, new drainage piping and structures, new wide paved pathways and electrical work designed to improve the park’s lighting for safety and security reasons.

Other improvements include the installation of the Common’s Great Lawn, alo-ng with 30 new shade trees. Solar compacting trash bins will be set up throughout the park, and a new garden may be planted to accompany a similar area that was put in during the project’s first phase.

"These identified phase two improvements are critical in setting the base foundation for the subsequent phases that will include a new gazebo with restrooms, entry plaza area, wet play areas and a performance pavilion," McGrath said.

The first phase included 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 the former tennis courts located across Appleton Avenue from Pittsfield High School.

The Common on First Street served as a city cemetery before the seven-acre site was turned into a park in 1883.