Discover Tyler Street: A Pittsfield block party with a mission

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PITTSFIELD A traditional August celebration, Discover Tyler Street, will have a new look and goal: showing the potential for development in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Pittsfield Better Block will take place Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. at the Morningside Fire Station at 235 Tyler St. It is backed by MassDevelopment's Transformative Development Initiative program and will offer a beer garden, mini-golf course and performance space.

The hope is to demonstrate how this section of the city could be revitalized and to test a streetscape engineering study for the Morningside neighborhood.

"It's not a block party," Amewusika "Sika" Sedzro, a fellow with the program, said during a presentation to the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority last week. "It's an economic development demonstration."

MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development agency, designated Pittsfield a TDI community in August 2015 to help stimulate growth in the Tyler Street and Morningside areas.

MassDevelopment sent Sedzro to Pittsfield in April 2016 to lead the initiative for the next three years.

The event will focus on a 600-foot area of Tyler Street bordered by Courtland and Smith streets which contains vacant storefronts between Goodwill of the Berkshires and the former Hess gas station.

Those storefronts will be filled with community arts programming, a pop-up home ownership and real estate shop, a cafe, a grocery store and an area for young children.

The event will illustrate how bicycle lanes, pedestrian friendly crosswalks, improved lighting, public seating and transit stops can co-exist on the street

These activities were selected at community meetings in June and July, Sedzro said. Pittsfield Better Block took shape over two months of grassroots planning.

"I think it's great to show that the street has a lot of potential, and to show people who want to do something how it could be done and where it could be done," said Councilor at Large Peter White, who grew up in the neighborhood.

"This isn't just on paper," White said. "You can see what can happen. You actually get to see a demonstration on what the possibilities are. It's a real cool concept. I'm looking forward to seeing how it works out.."

Structures used as demonstrations Saturday will be assembled Wednesday to Friday, a period the event's organizers refer to as "Build Week." Volunteers are being sought. More information is available at teambetterblock.com/Pittsfield, or by calling 413-418-0045.

The city of Pittsfield, the Tyler Street Business Group, Berkshire Community College, the Berkshire Realtors Association and Team Better Block, a Texas-based consulting firm, are also collaborating on the event.

Contact Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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