Consultants, stakeholders get feedback during Tyler Street open house


Photo Gallery | Tyler Street Business District open house

PITTSFIELD — A day-long public input session Wednesday brought the Morningside neighborhood another major step closer to a hoped-for revival over the next several years.

Consultants with Elan Planning, Design and Landscape Architecture of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., which is working on a development concept and strategic plan for the Tyler Street Business District and the surrounding area, is seeking input from residents, business owners, landlords, local organizations, city officials and others.

The firm is preparing a comprehensive draft plan as part of a MassDevelopment-funded Transformative Development Initiative process for the area.

"The whole thing is beginning to coalesce with what we've learned," said Robert Holzman, senior project manager with the consulting firm.

MassDevelopment, which in 2014 accepted Pittsfield as one of the first 10 of the state's 26 Gateway Cities to receive grant-funded development planning assistance for the Tyler Street area, also will fund a full-time TDI Fellow with experience in planning, community partnership building, real estate and economic development.

The Fellow will be based in the city for the next three years, beginning in the spring, and work exclusively on initiatives to improve the Tyler Street/Morningside area.

Among general themes, Holzman said, have been efforts to extend the downtown Streetscape improvements east from the area around Berkshire Medical Center along Tyler Street — adding new lighting, street work, sidewalk upgrades and other amenities. There also will be a focus on restaurants and cultural venues or attractions; creation of more market-rate housing and a higher percentage of home ownership [now at 30 percent]; and innovative small business development, such as with a cluster of food-related companies.

The Tyler Street Business Group, the city community development office and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, which manages the William Stanley Business Park near the Tyler Street corridor are working as partners in the initiative, and others are being sought.

"More and more people are coming to realize the need for collaboration among public, nonprofit and private [entities]," Holzman said.

Stakeholders representing the PEDA board, the Friends of St. Mary the Morning Star church, Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, the Community Development Department and other entities and organizations participated in the eight-hour session at the Union Hall at 789 Tyler St.

Among topics for suggested comment were arts and culture, open space and parks, recreation, housing development, small businesses and services; bicycle, auto, bus and pedestrian improvements; and visioning and district branding suggestions.

Among input on the latter topic, visitors posted "Morningside — A Town Within a City," and "Tyler Town."

PEDA Executive Director Corydon Thurston said the hope is for a strong link between the Stanley Business Park and the Tyler Street area, especially after the Woodlawn Avenue bridge is reconstructed and reopens in the spring. He noted that a strong trend in urban planning is toward neighborhoods where people can walk to work, shops, restaurants and entertainment — a reverse of the urban sprawl model popular in the decades after World War II.

"A lot of the basic elements exist here now," he said.

"I thought it was fantastic," said Diane Marcella, president of the Tyler Street Business Group, adding that around 125 visited during the open house event.

She praised the Elan consultants for their work in researching the area and options for future improvements. "This company has done so much," she said, adding that during periodic updates provided the stakeholders by the firm, "I have learned myself" about the district and what might be possible here.

She also thanked the community members who continue to turn out to help with such public events.

Holzman said the firm will put together a draft plan with strategic development and improvement options for presentation during another all-day open house event here in late spring or early summer.

MassDevelopment is in the process of hiring the Fellow to work with the Pittsfield stakeholders.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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