Our Opinion: Mixed-use key to success of Walmart proposal


A Needham company is taking a third crack at developing a portion of the William Stanley Business Park, and the mixed-use aspect may hold the key to its success.

Waterstone Retail Development is proposing a 190,000-square-foot building anchored by a Walmart Supercenter on the Pittsfield site. Manufacturing, not retail, has always been the designated purpose of the site, but attracting industry has proven to be difficult.

A major advantage of this proposal, which would be known as Woodlawn Crossing, is that it would not only make use of a 16.5-acre chunk (known as the teens) of the 52-acre business park but Waterstone will redevelop a site that is in severe need of remediation. Woodlawn Crossing will be within walking distance for many residents of Tyler Street, who lack a supermarket, and would ideally attract a few businesses within its orbit.

While the Walmart Supercenter would employ about 300 people, 200 of them will come from the existing Walmart at Berkshire Crossing on Hubbard Avenue, so the net gain is only 100 jobs. These jobs in general will not be the high-paying jobs provided by the high-tech or manufacturing industries. The Berkshires would presumably also be saddled with yet another vacant building when the current Walmart building is emptied.

A potentially significant selling point is Waterstone's plan to include medical offices, life sciences, light manufacturing and research and development companies at Woodlawn Crossing. This is Waterstone's third bid for a Walmart at the business park, and the major reason the most recent bid failed three years ago was public opposition to using property originally designated for industrial development for retail use instead. That opposition may emerge again, but the plan to diversify the proposal in ways that could produce jobs that pay well may take the edge off.

The Walmart Supercenter will clearly and understandably be Phase One of the project, but the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and city officials should pursue details of and a timetable for the multi-use elements of the Waterstone plan, specifically the life sciences, light manufacturing and research and development aspects. Those aspects of the proposal may be critical to selling the project to skeptics and, if the proposal comes to fruition, assuring that it will provide the desired long-term benefits to the neighborhood, the city and the Berkshires.


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