Spotlight on partnerships: Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito tours Pittsfield with Mayor Tyer

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PITTSFIELD — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said she saw public-private partnership in action during a visit to the city on Thursday.

Growing the workforce is in part reliant on "doing more of what works," she said, and she cited continued partnerships with private developers on business and housing initiatives as one thing that is working.

"We are good at collaborating, we are good at putting infrastructure dollars in place ... to attract private developers," Polito said.

A meeting with Mayor Linda Tyer, followed by a walking tour of the downtown, was one of several stops Polito made in the Berkshires on Thursday. She signed Community Compacts with Lanesborough and Windsor and announced Municipal Small Bridge program award winners in Lenox.

In Pittsfield, Polito saw market rate housing, entertainment and lodging during a nearly one-hour walking tour.

"We are really so proud of our downtown," Tyer told Polito.

Development of the three stops — the Onota Building, the Beacon Cinema, and Hotel on North — relied on a combination of private and public funding.

Owner and developer Louis Allegrone said state funding helped close the gap in its development of 25 market rate apartments inside the Onota Building.

"It was that last piece that made it work," he told Polito, standing inside the lobby of the upscale apartment building.

Polito said investments made in projects like the Onota Building result in more people living downtown who want and need businesses to patronize.

"That in itself is economic development," she said. "And you are seeing this renaissance, this re-birth, in downtown Pittsfield."

On the street, Polito pointed out architectural details that caught her eye, such as the historic facade of the Beacon Cinema.

Inside Hotel on North, Polito said it was a "spark" that was helping the downtown.

"We hope to start a fire with that spark," responded hotel co-owner Laurie Tierney.

Polito and Tyer were joined by Jonathan Butler, president and chief executive officer of 1Berkshire; A.J. Enchill, district aid for state Sen. Adam Hinds; City Council President Peter Marchetti and Jesse Cook-Dubin, president of Downtown Pittsfield Inc.

Polito asked Cook-Dubin what the city's downtown lacked.

"Everyday things," he said. "So that people are not ordering from Amazon."

But he conceded the city does not have the critical mass needed for that type of retail to be sustainable — "yet."

The tour was preceded by a 30-minute private meeting between Polito and Tyer in her City Hall office.

Polito said they discussed a number of things including the Tyler Street Transformative Development Initiative, start-ups, cultivation of advanced manufacturing, and the Berkshire Innovation Center.

Polito said additional funding for the Berkshire Innovation Center is being studied "very carefully" by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash. Construction of the center was stalled after project costs exceeded initial estimates.

"We will continue to make sure the program will be supported long into the future for the intended goals that we all share," Polito said.

She added that next steps toward that include a visit to the city from Ash.

She also said advanced manufacturing training is another economic development opportunity for the city.

"If we can graduate kids and people with the right skills that will connect to that industry, that also will be an economic engine for this area," she said.

Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo.


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