Self storage and U-Haul store planned for old plaza
PITTSFIELD — A vacant and dilapidated former shopping center on West Housatonic Street could soon get an "over-haul," so to speak.
U-Haul has entered into an agreement to purchase the 101,200-square-foot Pittsfield Plaza center and renovate it for indoor self-storage units, a store offering moving supplies and a U-Haul truck and trailer rental business.
Plans were filed with the city Community Development Office for the 13.8-acre parcel and its several hundred parking spaces and for reuse of the existing plaza building. For most of the 21st century, the center, which once contained a cinema, a large furniture story and several other businesses, has been vacant while attempts by the owner — Weissman Real Estate, of Rye, N.Y., — to add new businesses have fallen through.
A key zoning amendment was requested and approved in 2013, however, that allows enclosed self-storage facilities, which previously were restricted in a commercial zone but allowed in an industrial zone.
A special permit from the Community Development Board is required, with the board able to consider the project's appropriateness for the area.
The center owners submitted a plan in 2014 for a self-storage business using up to 40,000 square feet of floor space as an anchor tenant, with the goal of adding retail tenants over time, but that project apparently was unsuccessful although some renovation work was completed.
According to Stephany Sheekey, a real estate and zoning specialist with Amerco Real Estate Co., who is working on the project, U-Haul plans to use the entire structure. The proposal is scheduled to go before the Community Development Board on Aug. 2.
Sheekey said U-Haul personal storage centers feature indoor, climate-controlled units that provide a security staff or system and typically are accessible with a key card 24 hours per day. Trucks and trailers for rent will be stored in the parking lot, she said, and the storage of private boats in the lot also will be possible.
The 54-year-old center off 434 W. Housatonic St. was purchased in 2007 by Weissman Real Estate for $2.8 million.
Sheekey said Friday in a phone interview from Phoenix that she did not have a price figure in the U-Haul purchase, which she said is still pending.
If the project is approved and completed, an eyesore business property along the main western highway corridor from New York state — Route 20 — could receive the face-lift city officials have sought for more than a decade.
Pittsfield Plaza was built in 1962 by Connecticut developer Irving Eisenbaum. The shopping center was in disrepair when Weissman Real Estate purchased it from Pittsfield Plaza Associates of New York in 2007.
Built within the 100-year flood plain of a tributary of the Housatonic River prior to state and federal flood-control regulations, the plaza was plagued by chronic flooding. The site was sometimes referred to by residents as "Lake Pittsfield."
After the purchase in 2007, Weissman Real Estate took steps to address the flooding issues and made some aesthetic improvements, but filling the center with business tenants proved a struggle.
Among the longtime major tenants was the Pittsfield Cinema Center, which went out of business in 2001. Simmons Furniture, which opened a store there in 2002, moved in 2011.
It appeared for a time that the Big Y supermarket on West Street would be moved to the Pittsfield Plaza, but that proposal was dropped.
A karate school located at the plaza since the mid-1990s, moved to Lenox about five years ago.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.
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