Tuesday July 31, 2012

The $250,000 city grant offered to the Berkshire Carousel by Mayor Daniel Bianchi to set up shop downtown strengthens the city's argument to host the tourist draw. Cost may still be the problem, however, as the city competes with the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough, where the carousel is now being built, to become the carousel's permanent home.

The mall site has worked out well for the project so far as the carousel-building workshop has been located there rent-free for more than two years in 6,000 square feet of space. The exposure at the mall has helped fundraising, carousel organizers say, and brought volunteers into the ambitious project, which is expected to be ready by next summer.

The question now is where should the carousel be located permanently? A downtown Pittsfield spot offers the possibility of more visitors, both local and tourists, and it could be linked with other cultural attractions that are a part of downtown's comeback. The vacant lot at the corner of Church and Center streets purchased by carousel co-founder and president Jim Shulman seven years ago was assumed to become its home, but the projected $1.5 million cost of renovating the site and building an enclosed hall to house the carousel is daunting. Location at this site, however, could make it possible to generate considerable revenue. There has been speculation about the upgraded Berkshire Common as a potential site but the mix of a private project on public land could make that difficult or impossible.

The value of the $250,000 grant, which contains a requirement that the carousel board match the amount as well as other stipulations, would depend on where the Pittsfield site would be and the cost of establishing the amusement ride there. It does demonstrate the city's determination to get the carousel, which has generated considerable and well-deserved enthusiasm among Pittsfield residents.