Friday May 4, 2012

Pittsfield's First Street Common is looking good again after fading into the background over the years. For it to achieve its considerable potential, the next phase of its revival is crucial.

City officials were joined Wednesday by Richard K. Sullivan Jr., the state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, to mark the completion of the first phase of the upgrade for the Common, one of the oldest open spaces in downtown Pittsfield. The $1.7 million project "breathed new life into the Common," said Mayor Daniel Bianchi, and the expanse is now a far more welcoming place for visitors, with a concrete promenade at the entrance, a new playground, improved lighting and fencing, and new traffic signals at the intersection of First and Eagle streets to better ensure pedestrian safety.

This is the first of four phases of a $4.6 million project funded through the state's Gateway City Urban Parks Program, which in the first phase included $250,000 in city funds. The Patrick administration has made funding for the redevelopment of parks a priority in its efforts to boost designated gateway cities across the commonwealth. Pittsfield's improved downtown has made it more attractive to residents, newcomers and visitors, and improving the Common is a part of the process of enhancing downtown.

The second phase will involve more recreational pursuits, and there has been considerable debate as to what that should entail. Public input is important, and so is the continued state funding through the Gateways Initiative, without which the important project will languish.