BJ's plans store in city

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Robert M. MacPherson, the president of Cape Breton Corp., said he has obtained an option to purchase 8 1/2 acres of a 44-acre parcel, owned by J.W. Kelly Enterprises of New Ashford for an 88,000-square-foot building for BJ's. The new store would create 120 new jobs.

"That's what they've said," said Community Development Director Deanna L. Ruffer.

The land, which is located on the west side of Hubbard Avenue between the Downing Industrial Park and the Berkshire Crossing shopping center, has been vacant for at least 10 years, said Matthew Kelly, a spokesman for J.W. Kelly Enterprises. It is currently zoned for commercial or industrial use.

MacPherson expects construction to begin next summer, pending the acquisition of the appropriate permits from the city.

"We hope to get all of our permits in the next four to five months," MacPherson said. "If everything goes well, we should start construction in June or July."

Ruffer said it's too early to tell what types of permits that BJ's will need.

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"The next step would be for them to come back to us with a conceptual site plan so that we can outline a permitting strategy," she said.

"I think it's a great fit for that site, and for that area," Ruffer said.

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"We are thrilled that during these challenging times, BJ's has confidence in Pittsfield's future," said Mayor James M. Ruberto in a written statement. "The citizens of Pittsfield as well as all of Berkshire County will benefit from having another shopping choice."

Headquartered in Natick, BJ's operates 150 membership warehouse clubs from Maine to Florida with 20,000 "team members" as employees. The company, which was founded 25 years ago, introduced the warehouse club concept to the eastern United States.

The company has 20 warehouse clubs in Massachusetts that include stores in Chicopee and Greenfield in Western Massachusetts. BJ's also has stores in Albany, N.Y., and Torrington, Conn.

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BJ's expressed an interest in rebuilding and moving into the former Service Merchandise wing of the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough several years ago, but backed out. Best Buy moved into that wing instead.

BJ's spokeswoman Kelly McFalls did not return a telephone seeking comment on Friday, but MacPherson said the company has been interested in moving to Pittsfield.

"They like the area," he said. "There's a lot of people in the region, so it's a good market for them."

Cape Breton Corporation is a real estate development company that specializes in the site acquisition and local permitting of retail buildings and shopping centers. MacPherson said his company has been interested in the Kelly parcel for about a year.

The last major big box retailer to build a store in Pittsfield was Home Depot, which constructed a 104,000-square-foot store and adjoining garden center that opened in the Berkshire Crossing shopping center in June 2002. That site, formerly an open field, was originally intended for a Sam's Club merchandise warehouse.


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