Massachusetts Community Affairs director visits downtown Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD — Dodging raindrops and puddles, city leaders guided a key gubernatorial aide on a two-hour walking tour Thursday afternoon, showcasing the city's revitalized downtown, while acknowledging more improvements are in the works.
Led by Mayor Linda M. Tyer and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, state Community Affairs Director Hodari Cail made the rounds of the Berkshire Museum, Colonial Theatre and Hotel on North — all cultural and economic success stories of the past decade.
The final stop was the aging Columbus Avenue parking garage, slated for demolition and replacement by a larger parking structure to benefit residents and visitors in the center city area.
"What we've shown you today are the highlights of what we've done downtown ... and we have more work to do," Tyer told Cail.
As the eyes and ears of Gov. Charlie Baker, Cail told reporters his visit was an opportunity for continued dialogue between the commonwealth's gateway cities and his boss.
"Our job is to make sure we're doing the work of the governor," he said. "It's about the little things we can do to help."
Cail was impressed with restoration and preservation of the two theaters, hotel and museum which he noted shows the city is willing to invest in its people. He was particularly fascinated by the museum with its mix of the past and future.
"I always loved history," he told his hosts. "The major growth for students is to see what inventions have come out of this area."
Cail got to stand on stage of the once mothballed Colonial Theatre, fully restored a decade ago to a year-round venue for music, stage shows and stand-up comics.
At Hotel on North, Baker's municipal right-hand man got a bird's eye view of the city from several rooms of the upscale hotel, with Tyer pointing out Bousquet Ski Area to the south, one of the country's oldest recreational slopes.
The spotlight then turned on Barrington Stage Company and its 10 years of success since relocating from South Berkshire. The company's managing director Tristan Wilson highlighted not just the hit plays, but the successful community venture, including a national recognized program for area at-risk youth.
Barrington Stage also seems to be a magnate for new theatrical blood in the Berkshires.
"We have 20 full-time employees — nine [hired] in the last year who moved here from around the country," he said.
The unfinished business Tyer spoke of includes razing the 30-year-old-plus Columbus Avenue parking garage, erecting on the same footprint double the existing tiered parking spaces.
Pittsfield's current status seems no different than the rest of the state's urban areas, according to Cail.
"The common themes across the commonwealth are the same economic needs, with Pittsfield definitely invested in its people," he said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.