The building that housed Plunkett School on the corner of First and Fenn streets has sentimental value to Pittsfield, just as the England Brothers building did, though to a far lesser extent than that North Street icon. At just over a century old, however, the building is beyond renovation and reuse at a reasonable cost. The larger question becomes -- does the city need yet another Dunkin' Donuts and another drive-thru window at that site?
Permits are being sought for a new Dunkin' Donuts at First and Fenn once the building is razed. This would potentially create an opening for a similar business where the Dunkin' Donuts is located on First Street, not far from the former Plunkett School site. The project would go before the Community Development Board and then the City Council.
A skeptical Ward 2 City Councilor Kevin Morandi observed at Tuesday night's meeting that "the whole area along First Street has been a traffic nightmare over the years." A Dunkin' Donuts at First and Fenn streets may cause even more congestion than does the problematic Dunkin' Donuts on First Street, and if a similar business replaces Dunkin' Donuts at that spot the nightmare will be intensified. Given that there is a Dunkin' Donuts not far away on East and Fourth streets, how many Dunkin' Donuts does the city need, and shouldn't it consider waiting for a potentially better offer before giving up the prime Plunkett School site?
The inability or refusal of Americans to get out of their cars to do so much as buy a jelly doughnut has led to the drive-thru plague that has made a mess out of downtowns everywhere. This trend won't be reversed, but Pittsfield city officials should seriously debate at least slowing it down in the city when they take up this proposal. There should also be no rush to commit to a developer at this choice location.