This time, Pittsfield must heed the market
To the editor:
Fifty years ago, the market spoke to Pittsfield. It said loud and clear that manufacturing as we know it in America was packing up and heading out of town. The message was broadcast to every city in this country. Some, like New York, Fort Collins, and Asheville, heeded the warning; many, like Detroit, Akron, and Pittsfield, did not.
Today the market speaks again. It is telling us that young people, seniors, entrepreneurs and investors are flocking to cities at the fastest rate in history. They want access to quality schools, health services, restaurants and entertainment. They want to walk outside and see streets and sidewalks full of people. They want the energy of a booming vibrant community. We can be that city.
Our downtown, (Tyler Street included) can be a vibrant city center like Burlington or Boulder, but we can't get there just doing what we've been doing. In the past two weeks alone we have seen front page articles on the rise in foreclosures, stagnant property values, and a plea from the mall for lower taxes.
While many see these signals as troubling, and understandably so, they also present an opportunity. The opportunity for our city and state officials to rethink our historical approach to economic development; the opportunity, to show our legislative support to the people and businesses who are investing in a strong, sustainable future.
A strong city starts at its center. This isn't just a feeling, it's a fact. The denser the city, the less we need to spend on roads and cars and the more we can spend on people and programs. Right now, the Greystone building (Mission and Dotties) pays taxes on a valuation of $130 per square foot of of its downtown footprint. The Allendale plaza — $16 per square foot.
This disparity has made downtown development unsustainable for many businesses and the result is a growth in big-box stores that pay low wages, require a car to reach, and which destroy vast plots of grass and trees to build their cheap, temporary structures. This issue is just one of many resulting from an old way of thinking that needs to be addressed in order to be a growing, strong, sustainable city.
Now is the time to think outside the box, look at the facts, and make use of 21st century technology. Now is the time to build partnerships with other cities around the state, country and world. Now is the time that we stop focusing on the city we once were, and start focusing on what we can be.
Mike Bloomberg, Pittsfield Mike Bloomberg is a Democratic candidate for state representative, 3rd Berkshire District. (Pittsfield.)