Environmentally friendly Courtyard Marriott planned in Pittsfield


PITTSFIELD -- After a year of planning, a Lenox innkeeper is close to unveiling formal plans for an environmentally friendly major hotel in the Berkshires.

Joseph M. Toole, president of Toole Lodging Group Inc., wants to build the county's first Courtyard by Marriott -- a 91-room hotel on a 12.5-acre parcel next to the Stop & Shop supermarket on Dan Fox Drive.

While Toole, his development team and city planners have discussed the project several times in recent weeks -- with the latest meeting on Friday -- the local businessman expects he will need another month or two before bringing an official proposal to the city's Community Development Board.

"We're working through the process until we get it right," he said. "It's taken us a lot more time [to ensure] we have an environmentally harmonious project as possible."

Toole noted Marriott corporate officials, in awarding him a franchise in March 2012, have given him until 2015 to build his hotel.

The project -- the cost yet unknown -- only requires site plan approval from the Pittsfield Community Development Board, according to city officials, since the property is zoned for hotel use.

City planner C.J. Hoss says the Conservation Commission and possibly the Zoning Board of Appeals also will have to sign off on the project. Hoss says one key to the project is maintaining the greenway along Dan Fox Drive.

"We're trying to make sure [Toole] keeps a well-landscaped buffer along the road," he said.

In addition, Toole says the entrance/exit will be 48 feet wide, compared to the minimum 36 feet required by the Pittsfield Fire Department, to ensure emergency vehicles have plenty of room in and around the building.

If approved, the Toole Lodging Groups' newest hotel would join the 79-room Hampton Inn & Suites -- part of the Hilton Hotel & Resorts chain -- and the 96-room Yankee Inn that Toole owns and operates less than a mile away on Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 and 20) in Lenox. In addition, his lodging company also runs Yankee Suites on West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield, a 26-unit extended stay facility.

The Pittsfield Courtyard by Marriott will be a "green" project, mirroring some of the environmental practices in place at Toole's other lodging facilities.

A solar array on the roof will fuel the hotel's hot water system and it will sit on less than three acres of the 12.5-acre lot; the rest of the parcel will be placed under a conservation restriction.

"Much consideration in the engineering is to provide the greatest percentage of undisturbed land," Toole said.

He pointed out the Hampton Inn he opened five years ago included the preservation of 120 acres behind the hotel.

Furthermore, the Marriott will use recycled paper products such as note pads and breakfast cups, and will conserve water and maximize recycling efforts, including bars of soap.

"Last year at the Hampton, we took unused soap and shipped it out to be molded into new bars for use in Third World countries," Toole said.

As for the Marriott's economic impact, Toole expects the hotel to employ 60 to 65 primarily full-time workers. The Yankee and Hampton inns currently have a total of 90 mostly full-timers.

Toole also claims a Marriott hotel also will complement -- not necessarily compete with -- his other lodging properties, likely attracting people who otherwise might not lodge in the Berkshires.

"People who are brand-loyal to Marriott will come here," he said. "We found the same thing happened when we opened the Hampton."

The proposed Marriott hotel would be across from the dormant 146-room Patriot Suites, which the owners closed three years ago. Toole said his project doesn't hinge on the fate of an empty hotel his lodging company managed in its first year of operation. Patriot Suites opened in 2005 as a place to board people who were considering time shares at one of Patriot Resort's other properties -- Vacation Village, located near Jiminy Peak Ski Area in Hancock.


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