PITTSFIELD — Morningside Neighborhood Initiative members heard from several community groups and city officials recently and expressed optimism over a confluence of efforts that point toward a major revival for the Tyler Street area.
Chairwoman Gail Krumpholz gave an overview of projects the group has worked on before asking for updates from the Tyler Street Business Group, Police Chief Michael Wynn, city Community Development officials, the Neighborhood Watch, Pittsfield Community Connection program, Berkshire Dream Center, Habitat for Humanity, councilors representing the area and others who attended the Jan. 11 forum at Morningside Community School.
Krumpholz said one of her goals was to focus on all the successful and emerging projects and achievements in recent years, and those on the near horizon. After hearing from several speakers, she added, "I can heartily say we are one of the best neighborhoods in the city."
Among efforts expected to have a major impact on the Tyler Street/Morningside area is a planning initiative through MassDevelopment's Transformative Development Initiative Fellows program. That will fund a full-time professional with experience in city planning, community partnership building, real estate and economic development who will work with the district for three year.
Partners in the initiative are the city, the business group (http://tylerstreetpittsfield.com/index.html) and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, which manages the nearby William Stanley Business Park.
In addition, city officials noted planning is under way to extend Pittsfield's Streetscape improvements — which have transformed sections of North and South streets — east along Tyler Street. Improvements have included new street lighting, sidewalk and paving work.
Noting that her organization formed about seven years ago and the area now seems on the verge of significant progress, Diane Marcella, president of the Tyler Street Business Group, said, "Nothing here happened overnight, but people kept coming to meetings like this."
She added, "Everything was in baby steps — we've definitely taken a lot of baby steps."
Marcella also praised city councilors Peter Marchetti (now the council president), Peter White and former Councilor Christine Yon for their early support, along with city employees and others from a number of organizations.
Marchetti said he remembers being at the first meeting of the Morningside Initiative at the school about 12 years ago, saying that "people laughed at us" at the time. But he said the many community and city efforts have paid off.
"There are a lot of positive things going on," said Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, whose ward includes part of the Morningside area. He noted that the Woodlawn Avenue bridge will soon be reconstructed and open, linking Tyler Street to the East Street area and the Stanley Business Park.
The Berkshire Innovation Center, expected to boost advanced manufacturing firms in the region, also is planned for that nearby park, he said.
Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully, who represents another section of the Morningside area, said that when she first ran for office and met many of those present at the forum, "One thing that really hit me was that these are really selfless people."
A nurse at Berkshire Medical Center, which is at the western edge of the Tyler Street district, Tully said she believes the health care organization wants to offer significant support to the improvement efforts.
Marcella and Krumpholz also took note of the several community events in the Tyler Street area that have blossomed in recent years — including the annual Halloween Parade, Morningside Pride Night and march; an annual neighborhood cleanup, block parties, as well as projects the Morningside Initiative has supported, including efforts to restore the Rice Silk Mill, develop Springside Park and restore Springside House, restore the Samuel Harrison House, and multi-year improvement projects at The Common.
Wynn gave a report on crime statistics in the area, and on police efforts to solve robberies, violent crimes and crime associated with opioid use in the neighborhood and citywide. He stressed the importance of working with police, such as through the Morningside Neighborhood Watch, as officers cannot be everywhere at once.
Referring to a recent rash of robberies at small businesses, Wynn said, "This type of thing takes a communitywide response."
White said interested persons should attend the next Morningside Watch meeting, which is planned for Feb. 27.
Adam Hinds, chairman of the steering committee for the Shannon grant-funded Pittsfield Community Connection program to combat gang influences and youth violence, and interim director Dr. Scott Murray spoke about mentoring and other intervention efforts that are beginning to make a real difference in the lives of at-risk Pittsfield teens and their families.
The mentoring program now includes 40 volunteer mentors working with young people, among other programs under the multi-year Shannon grant initiative.
Hinds noted that a separately funded grant program, the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, will soon begin working with young adults who have become involved in the criminal justice system in an effort to help turn their lives around. That program has received a 10-year grant that will total about $5 million.
Marchetti, one of the mentors to a young person in the Community Connection program, urged other residents to become involved. "Join up; you won't be sorry," he said.