Long-dormant Pittsfield Plaza cleared for storage units -- and a facelift

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PITTSFIELD -- It's been a long wait for the owners of the Pittsfield Plaza on West Housatonic Street, but a new building and a general facelift is planned for the spring.

Alfred Weissman Real Estate of Rye, N.Y., which owns the vacant and dilapidated shopping center, won special permit and revised site plan approvals Tuesday from the Community Development Board. The plan includes an enclosed self-storage unit building at the west end of the linear center and facade and other improvements to the rest of the structure and site.

Joseph L. Genzano, representing the owners, said plans call for a self-storage facility of up to 40,000 square feet, most of which will be constructed initially and the balance completed once customer preferences as to the size of the units and other factors are known.

He said the units would be up to 100 square feet, but some could be smaller, and there will be up to 400 units in an enclosed building. The owners had sought to build the structure as a feature to bring new life to the dormant plaza.

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Board member Louis Costi said he could not support the plan unless the entire retail space also received new facade work, and Genzano said that is what the company intends. "It's our intention to do the whole facade, absolutely," he said.

Genzano said it would not be cost-effective to replace only part of the building facade," adding, "We want people to see a place that is alive."

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The owners experienced a series of difficulties and delays in trying to revive the shopping center, and last year proposed the self-storage units as a means of jump-starting activity there and luring new tenants. However, as storage units were not allowed in the commercial zone, the firm had to propose and have adopted by city boards a zoning amendment to allow enclosed storage units in commercial zones with a special permit from the board.

The 51-year-old, 13.8 acre center at 434 West Housatonic St. was purchased six years ago by Weissman Real Estate for $2.8 million.

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