PITTSFIELD -- The $10 million, 54-bed Berkshire Place nursing home facility planned for adjoining lots at 276 and 290 South St. has passed muster with the city Historical Commission.
The commission voted 5-1 this week, with Kathleen M. Reilly opposed, not to delay the demolition of a house built in 1894 on the site. The house and an addition built around 1979, which faces South Street, has been used for medical offices in recent decades.
James Scalise of S-K Design Group Inc., representing the developer, Berkshire Retirement Home Inc., said research showed the architecture of the home was not considered historically significant and the architect's identity could not be determined.
The two-story home does have "a limited connection" to a historical Pittsfield family, the Colts, because members lived in it early in the 20th century for several years, he said.
The building was later a boarding house and used for apartments before being used for medical offices for about a half century. The interior of the original house has been divided and renovated for offices. It is not listed on lists of historical significance, Scalise said.
Reilly said that because the home is not listed doesn't mean it could not be listed if such a designation were sought. "This is a significant neighborhood in Pittsfield history," she said.
While other commissioners appeared reluctant to approve the razing, they didn't believe there was enough historical significance to halt the project, and therefore a delay would only slow the development -- the design of which was praised.
Scalise accepted a suggestion to consider that, if someone came forward soon and wanted to move the original home to another lot, an agreement would be considered.
However, he said designers seriously considered incorporating the house into design of the project but that wasn't feasible.
The former St. Teresa's Church building, built in 1954 at 290 South St., also will be razed as part of the project. The structure is not considered historic and the demolition wasn't brought before the Historical Commission for a recommendation.
Scalise said the next step for the project would be to acquire a building permit and that could be within 45 days. The city has granted a special permit and a zoning variance to allow a total of 54 nursing home beds on a 3.51-acre parcel, which would normally require a larger lot.
The 21 2-story complex will replace the current Berkshire Place building at 89 South St.
In response to a question from commissioners, Scalise said plans call for resuing the current historic nursing facility.
According to its website, the facility was established in 1888 in accordance with the wishes of Zenas Marshall Crane, son of Crane & Co. founder Zenas Crane. It was incorporated in 1890 as the Berkshire County Home For Aged Women. In 1950, the home was licensed as a rest home by the state.
In 1963, a modern nursing center was erected. The one-story structure connected with the rear of the main building. In 1986, the corporation's name was changed to Berkshire Retirement Home, Inc., and in 1992, Berkshire Place completed another addition and interior renovations.
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