PITTSFIELD — The owners of Pittsfield’s Hilton Garden Inn want to build a Starbucks location in the shadow of the hotel at a lot well-positioned at the meeting of Pittsfield and Lenox.
Decision makers on Pittsfield’s Community Development Board aren’t opposed to adding another coffee shop to the city, but they’re just not sure about this site.
The biggest question is whether the project’s plan to use a single curb cut on to Route 7 — next to the curb cut used by guests at the hotel and shoppers at Pittsfield Rye Bakery and Guido’s Fresh Marketplace — will be traffic-afe.
The Community Development Board recently decided unanimously to send the project proposal on to the City Council.
The coffee shop proposal will make its way to a public hearing before the council on Oct. 11 with a communication from the board that notes its concerns on how one of the busiest roads in the county will handle the additional traffic.
The board has other concerns over how the project will manage stormwater as it converts the back of the property from a wooded lot into a paved space.
Plans submitted to the city were initially vague, calling for a “proposed coffee shop” with a drive-thru to take the space of an abandoned gas station at 1030 South Street and grassy lot bordered by Guido’s Fresh Marketplace to the north and the Hilton Garden Inn to the west.
Sketches for the site and comments from the project architect during a recent presentation reveal that the “proposed” coffee shop will likely be a Starbucks location.
Applications for the project lay out plans for a 22-car drive-thru, 28 parking spaces and the construction of a 2,700-square-foot coffee shop complete with a patio and outdoor seating.
Construction would create a curb around the two empty lots and use the existing curb cut on to Route 7 as the single entrance and exit for the property.
“I think the building looks great and it will certainly be better than what’s there now,” said Community Board member Libby Herland, “but things in this stretch of Route 7 are quite a bit different than even when the gas station was there.”
Herland and other board members painted a picture of a quickly booming space at the meeting of Pittsfield and Lenox — an area that in recent years has seen the building of the Hilton Garden Inn, the flourishing of Guido’s and additional traffic brought to the area by the revitalization of Bousquet Mountain Ski Area.
State highway data from 2021 pegs the annual average daily vehicle trips on this section of Route 7 at 22,991 trips. Prior to the pandemic, the annual average daily vehicle trip count was fairly steady around 24,900 trips.
“I’m really concerned about people exiting from here, right next to the exit for Guido’s and the Hilton,” Herland said. “It can be pretty hairy coming out of Guido’s. … I just see so much potential for accidents.”
The project’s architect, Timothy Power of PVI Site Design, told members of the Community Development Board that traffic studies done in the development of the project show that on an average weekday Starbucks would add about 500 vehicle trips over the traffic the lot saw when the gas station was operational.
The traffic memo concludes that “the change in use results in an increase in trips of 2% over average use which falls within the expected variability of the area. Therefore, this change is a negligible impact to the traffic in the area.”
The memo also notes that a state traffic survey just south of the site last year found that the majority of drivers travel between 56-57 mph on Route 7.
Board members asked Power whether the driveway for the coffee shop could be shifted further away from the existing Guido’s exit giving drivers more space to navigate through a traffic hotspot.
Power noted that ultimately the positioning of curb cuts on Route 7 are up to the state’s Department of Transportation but said the development really needed the southern portion of the property to create the restaurant’s drive-thru. He said if necessary, planners would consider making the exit from the property a right turn exit only in an attempt to direct drivers away from the majority of the hotel and grocery store traffic.
If the project is approved, the coffee shop would be Pittsfield’s fourth Starbucks location.