PITTSFIELD — Community conversations continue this week on how to spend the $40.6 million in federal coronavirus relief money headed to Pittsfield over the next two years. The city officials plan to focus the upcoming community forums on potential housing, neighborhood and cultural organization projects.

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Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer looks on at a forum to discuss the city's plan for American Rescue Plan Act money. Tyer listened as residents shared their ideas for public health uses.

The money comes from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act — known as ARPA — that aims to alleviate some of the economic and health impacts to cities, businesses and families as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

City leaders and residents will gather at the Morningside Community School at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss how the federal aid can be used to respond to housing needs in the city and support the neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic.

The final community forum on projects related to cultural organizations will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts. The city is providing an American Sign Language translator and Spanish translator at each meeting.

Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer said that census tracts around the Morningside and West Side neighborhoods have been highlighted for additional help.

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City officials and residents will meet this week to discuss potential housing projects for the federal coronavirus money coming to the city. Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer said at meetings last week that the Morningside and West Side (pictured) neighborhoods have been identified as the areas hardest hit by the pandemic. 

Residents are letting their thoughts be known in person and online. A survey about how to use the money released by the city earlier this month has received more than 800 responses as of Friday. The survey is available at the city’s American Rescue Plan Act landing page until September 1.

City officials say they’re impressed by the amount of feedback forums on public health, human services and economic development produced last week.

Pittsfield to get $40M total in COVID aid; residents say use it for housing, mental health

At those meetings, residents asked the city to prioritize support for the city’s low-income work force, including initiatives like expanded childcare, economic support for freelancers and healthcare workers, and additional housing options. Residents said with the basic needs of workers covered, the city can begin to rebuild.

A Taco Bell location at the Berkshire Crossing may one day house another Tex-Mex restaurant giant. On Friday, the Conservation Commission will review a notice of intent from Chipotle Inc. to transform the Taco Bell location into a Chipotle franchise.

Representatives from the Tennessee-based Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc., who submitted the proposal on Chipotle’s behalf, said that a lease agreement is in the works between the burrito magnate and Berkshire Crossing property owner Brixmor.

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Representatives for Chipotle Mexican Grill are set to present their plans to redevelopment a local Taco Bell into a Chipotle franchise before the Conservation Commission this week.

A redevelopment plan, submitted to the commission in late July, proposes a widening and repaving of the existing drive-thru, upgrades to the location’s utilities and replacing the sidewalks for new designs that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A new stormwater management system would be added to the site to reduce any potential runoff impacts to the abutting East Branch Housatonic River.

The plan for a proposed Chipotle location in Pittsfield would redevelop the Taco Bell location at Berkshire Crossing.

The footprint of the building would largely stay the same.

Last year the City Council approved a special permit for the construction of a new Taco Bell location next to the Dalton Avenue MedExpress. The new 2,700 square-foot building will allow Taco Bell to move across the street and leave their current lot available for a Chipotle take over.

According to the proposal, Chipotle reportedly “completed a market study of the region and based on the location of existing restaurants and other developments” and decided that the current Taco Bell site is “the most economically viable for the success of the proposed project.”

The fast food giant currently operates almost 3,000 restaurant locations across the United States. The nearest franchise to Pittsfield is in Rensselaer, N.Y.

Heads-upOn Monday and Tuesday, The Mount will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Public Radio’s first broadcast and four of the women who shaped the news along the way.

Journalist Lisa Napoli will share the stories of Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg and Cokie Roberts; journalists who helped set the news agenda of their day. Napoli is the featured speaker at the latest event in the Mount’s Summer Lecture Series. The conversations start at the Kitchen Garden Tent at 4 p.m. on Monday and 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

Tickets can be purchased at edithwharton.org.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 496-6149.