PITTSFIELD -- Big Y Foods Inc. plans to embark on a multi-million dollar upgrade of its West Street store later this summer, solidifying the grocer's commitment to stay in downtown Pittsfield.
The project, which city planners approved on Tuesday night, should begin in mid-August, with completion expected in March, according to representatives of the Springfield-based supermarket chain.
"We will have state-of-the-art equipment such as energy-efficient coolers and freezers, with all new electrical, refrigeration, heating and cooling systems," said Peter Smith, Big Y's project manager. Exterior work includes improved lighting and landscaping in and around the parking lot, which will grow from 339 to 356 parking spaces.
Smith noted the store will remain open during the renovations, as the work will be phased in over the seven-month period.
"We strive not to interrupt our customers' shopping experience," he said following the city's endorsement of the project, which is expected to cost as much as $6 million.
The Pittsfield Community Development Board on Tuesday approved Big Y's request for a special permit, necessary for the redevelopment of a building greater than 5,000 square feet located within the city's Downtown Arts Overlay District. Big Y needed the permit even though the 61,000-square-foot commercial structure, which was built in 1972, won't increase in size.
The five-member panel also unanimously waived a zoning requirement that would mandate Big Y provide at least 427 parking spaces.
The board's actions come three years after Big Y dropped plans to vacate the city's downtown area. When Big Y announced in 2008 that it planned to move its supermarket from West Street to West Housatonic Street, company officials had said the West Street building was in bad shape and had been renovated several times since 1985. The last makeover came in 2006 with a redesign of the main entrance.
One of New England's largest independently owned supermarket chains, Big Y has operated a market on West Street since 1984, when it purchased the former Adams Supermarket chain.
City officials are pleased Big Y -- Pittsfield's only major downtown grocer -- is staying put on the corner of West and Center streets.
"Given where the store is located, it's accessible to many parts of the downtown," said Sheila B. Irvin, chairwoman of the Community Development Board. "This project is a way to create more connection to the [surrounding] neighborhoods."
Big Y's first step toward redeveloping the West Street store began in March with the demolition of the former Goodwill Industries retail store. Late last year, the supermarket chain purchased the building on a half-acre parcel for $250,00 from Pittsfield resident Richard C. Kielman.
The redevelopment plans call for converting the adjacent vacant property into additional store parking and a more navigable loading zone area for delivery trucks.
The upgrade of the West Street store is Big Y's third major project in Berkshire County in the past five years. In 2008, the supermarket chain completed a $14 million renovation and expansion of its 67,000-square-foot store in Great Barrington. Three years later, Big Y opened a new, 51,500-square-foot supermarket just off Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Lee.
Big Y also operates stores in Adams and North Adams.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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