Letter: Pittsfield Better Block a smashing success
A couple of weekends ago, while the rest of the commonwealth was soaking up the last few days of summer on distant beaches and seashores, more than 300 Pittsfield residents stayed right here in their own community to celebrate Pittsfield Better Block (Eagle, August 26). The event, sponsored by MassDevelopment's Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) and Team Better Block, and built by more than 60 volunteers and partners from across the city, was a full-scale demonstration of the Tyler Street business corridor's boundless potential. And while the City and TDI Partnership were thrilled to welcome so many residents to the block last weekend, we are even more excited to share what we learned from Pittsfield Better Block and what comes next for the Tyler Street District.
Pittsfield Better Block revealed the growing community support for public amenities and spaces such as parklets, bike lanes, and traffic calming measures that will make Tyler Street more pedestrian friendly. These temporary features of the Better Block event slowed the average speed of passing cars from 30 mph to 15 mph, showing us that improving the walkability of Tyler Street will make residents feel safer strolling, shopping, and doing business in the District.
Pittsfield Better Block also showed us that residents want to see healthier dining options and more green space on Tyler Street. Our pop-up market with fresh produce, and the plants and greenery brought in for the weekend, were praised by Better Block visitors. Finally, we learned that community-centered art will play vital role in the revitalization of the street, evident in the overwhelming support for Better Block's gallery and performance spaces, and in the excitement around the Goodwill building's new mural unveiled during the event.
But Pittsfield Better Block was just the beginning: The TDI Partnership and the city are already building on the momentum generated by last weekend's event to push the dial forward on Pittsfield's revitalization efforts. TDI and our partners are working with key district stakeholders to create engaging branding for Tyler Street that will make it a more welcoming place for those who live, work, and visit in Pittsfield. The city will use lessons learned during Pittsfield Better Block to initiate a streetscape engineering design study on Tyler, and has begun accepting applications for the Tyler Street District Storefront Improvement Enhancement Program from businesses in the TDI District. This pilot program will help approximately four or five storefronts make necessary updates to their building exteriors that will help these businesses improve their appearance and attract customers.
If you missed Pittsfield Better Block, not to worry — it provided just a glimpse of what's to come for Tyler Street, thanks to the visionary leadership of Pittsfield, the generous support of our many local and regional partners, and the goodwill from the people. Stay tuned.
The writer is the Pittsfield TDI fellow for MassDevelopment.
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