State development program aims to revitalize Pittsfield's Morningside neighborhood

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PITTSFIELD - City officials are hopeful selection of the Morningside neighborhood for a state development program will lead to economic and social revival.

It was announced on Monday that 10 Gateway Cities in the state would receive planning and implementation assistance to advance development proposals for their districts under MassDevelopment's Transformative Development Initiative. In Pittsfield's case, the overall goal for the Morningside area and Tyler Street is to spark the types of public and private investment that transformed North and South streets over the past decade.

"This is very exciting stuff," said Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi. "It was a very competitive process."

All 26 Massachusetts Gateway Cities had applied in the initial round of the TDI program.

Beginning early in 2015, Bianchi said, the assistance "will allow us to put together some detailed plans for the area."

The mayor and Community Development Director Douglas Clark said the fact the Morningside district is bordered on one end by the Berkshire Medical Center complex and on the other by the William Stanley Business Park, where the Berkshire Innovation Center is planned, likely was a factor in its selection by MassDevelopment.

"The potential for development there is significant," Bianchi said.

He added that the Morningside Neighborhood Initiative and the Tyler Street Business Group, along with "two very active city councilors" in Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, illustrated the necessary commitment of local community and government officials.

Clark said the program initially will provide assistance in the form of a MassDevelopment fellow, to be assigned to the city, who will work with city officials, the business group, the Morningside community organization and other interest parties in identifying and fleshing out possible areas for development or civic improvements.

Citing North Street's transformation, Clark said state- and city-funded Streetscape improvements and the cooperative public/private investment in theaters, housing or other development are examples of the types of initiatives that will be considered for Tyler Street.

Areas of likely interest, he said, include the old Morningside Firehouse building, the former St. Mary the Morning Star Church and vacant lots or currently vacant commercial buildings along Tyler Street.

Streetscape improvements, including street work, sidewalks, utilities and street lighting, also will be considered. In addition to obtaining detailed information on the various development proposals that emerge, Clark said the city hopes to identify the assistance programs or funding it can provide for property owners and others planning for reuse of buildings or lots.

"I think this is great," said Morandi. "I am very thankful the city was chosen. It is a great opportunity ... I am anxious to get going."

"Oh, my god; that's fantastic," said Diane Marcella, president of the Tyler Street Business Group. "We are ecstatic."

She said the program should enhance and expand upon a number of initiatives begun in recent years by the community and business groups and the city.

Tully said of the news, "This is just a great thing for the city; I am really looking forward to it."

She added, "My hat's off to Doug Clark for putting in the application for it."

"MassDevelopment is thrilled with the redevelopment potential of the inaugural districts that will receive assistance through the Transformative Development Initiative," said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones in a release.

The nine other city applications chosen were from Brockton, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lynn, New Bedford, Peabody, Revere, Springfield and Worcester.

"The Morningside neighborhood of Pittsfield has all the potential to be a vibrant, thriving community," said state Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield, the Senate chairman of the Gateway Cities legislative caucus. "I am confident that this announcement is the first step in making this a reality."

The program considered the quality of the submission, the vision for the district, the district type (downtown, residential, and industrial), geographic distribution, and the opportunity for program impact in the early years of the program.

The members of a TDI District review committee included partners from diverse geographies and backgrounds that had either knowledge of the Gateway Cities, or experience in district redevelopment in environments similar to those cities.

The review committee provided a recommendation to the MassDevelopment board of directors, which approved the districts at its Dec. 11 meeting.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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