Study Walmart plan before passing judgment
To the editor:
As an involved citizen and business owner in Pittsfield, when I learned of the proposed Woodlawn Crossing project I was at the same time interested and concerned. How would this impact the Morningside neighborhood, Pittsfield businesses and residents? Is it an improvement or a detriment?
The first phase of the project is, I suppose, the most controversial: the Walmart Supercenter. I have never been a big fan of Walmart, though it does frequently donate funds and goods to the city and to local causes. It will certainly increase traffic in the area and leave an empty space at Berkshire Crossing. However, it will provide a net increase of 85-100 jobs. These may not be manufacturing or technical jobs, but for many, good jobs and perhaps home- and family-saving jobs. A supermarket/discount store will be created within walking distance for many potential employees and shoppers, some of whom do not have access to cars.
Other benefits of the proposed project are the ones that interest me most. The developer will take care of a stormwater remediation project on the site that would otherwise cost the city some $6 million. Improvements will be made to the nearby intersections in a pedestrian-friendly manner at no cost to the city. Most important, other portions of the parcel will be developed for medical offices, light manufacturing, research and development, life sciences and retail, creating more and better jobs for Pittsfield.
Further, Pittsfield will gain much-needed tax revenue with this development, and the space that now holds Walmart will continue to generate real estate taxes, creating a great incentive for the Berkshire Crossing owner and Walmart itself to lease the previous space quickly, as happened in North Adams within weeks of Walmart moving to a new space. This developer is not asking for any tax breaks, and the development will be funded privately. Let's suppose this project is turned down. Walmart will still want to build a supercenter somewhere, and I'd guess that would be at the mall. If so, Pittsfield will lose big.
A possible concern is impact to local small businesses. I think any impact by Walmart or Home Depot has long passed. Carr Hardware, Dettinger Lumber, Steven Valenti, and many other local stores and restaurants still thrive in and near downtown. I and many others will continue to patronize these places. If anything, I think more retail establishments will be attracted to the Morningside area, giving residents more choice and more convenience.
As long as the city has firm guarantees of development beyond phase one, this is a positive plan overall that will benefit Pittsfield in many ways, and may be the spark that ignites further development of the William Stanley Business Park.
Rather than immediately dismissing the project, I encourage skeptics to listen to or read about this proposal and learn more before passing judgment. There is a website and Facebook page with plenty of information. Simply search "Woodlawn Crossing."
Thomas J. Sakshaug, DDS, Pittsfield