CPA will help save historic city buildings

To the editor:

The loss of St. Joseph's convent will leave a hole on North Street. It didn't have to be. The building was in good shape structurally, but the cost of the upgrades was too much.

For those who mourn the loss of St. Joseph's Convent or Plunkett School or who are concerned about the next demolition that leaves a gaping hole in our city landscape, there is an alternative.

On the ballot this Nov. 8 is a proposal to adopt the Community Preservation Act CPA) for Pittsfield. Adoption of the CPA would create a local fund that community organizations and groups could apply to for their projects to save and convert historic buildings, clean up and create new parks, buy land for open spaces, and create housing alternatives.

The local fund comes from two sources. One is a small surcharge on property taxes that would amount to $14 a year for the average homeowner in Pittsfield. The other are state matching funds that Pittsfield so far has not eligible for since we have not adopted CPA. Estimates are we could raise a half a million dollars a year to distribute to these important projects that improve the quality of life for all our residents.


Last week, the Pittsfield Historical Commission received a report on a study summarizing the top 30 most endangered historic buildings in Pittsfield. This included a worrisome array of quality commercial real estate, residential, churches, former schools, clubs, and cultural venues, including St Mary's Church, the William Russell Allen House, the Polish Community Center, the Christian Science Church, the Masonic Temple and Hibbard School, just to name a few of the recognizable, cherished, and highly worthwhile properties featured among the list. Also on the list are enough obscure but wonderful commercial and industrial sites in Pittsfield to spark a small employment renaissance, if utilized properly.

With the Community Preservation Act, we have a mechanism that can be used to save these buildings from the fate of St. Joseph's Convent and the Plunkett School.

By giving a little, we get a lot back, for our city, for our neighbors, for our children. A "yes" vote on Question 5 on Nov. 8 is a vote for Pittsfield.

John Dickson, Pittsfield, The writer is chairman of the Pittsfield Historical Commission.