Parking near new Wayfair center sparks concerns from Pittsfield councilors

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PITTSFIELD — A measure that would allow for free on-street parking near Wayfair on South Church Street sparked debate Tuesday from city councilors, some of whom argued that the move was unfair to other city businesses.

Councilors ultimately voted to table the measure, which was brought forward by City Engineer Ricardo Morales.

The small city street is quite wide, he said. Allowing on-street parking would serve the increased need for parking with Wayfair's arrival on the street, he said, as well as serve to make the street safer by slowing drivers.

But some councilors said the change would be inconsistent with other areas of the city. The company arrives in the city amid a larger conversation about the direction of paid parking downtown and its effect on businesses.

"I just feel that it's sending the wrong message," Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell said.

Morales said the move would open up 30 unmarked parking spaces along the street. It would help meet the demand for parking near the Clock Tower Business Center, where Wayfair will host its grand opening Thursday. And speeding along the street has been an issue.

"It's kind of a freeway once you get there," he told councilors.

Councilors, in turn, voiced confusion about what the parking plan was, given that the company expects to eventually have 300 employees at the Pittsfield center. They wondered aloud about why parking at the building hasn't been vetted by the Community Development Board or the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"It sounds like a lot of the pieces of the puzzle maybe haven't been followed," Ward 7 Councilor Tony Simonelli said.

And Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers expressed frustration that she hadn't been contacted earlier about the planned changes, and that now constituents who live in the Clock Tower building are annoyed and contacting her.

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"It's disrespectful all the way around," she said.

Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said it feels to her that the city is changing its rules to suit an incoming business while not doing enough to support existing businesses. "This is why we are not perceived as business friendly," she said.

City Planner CJ Hoss said Wednesday that the parking plan around the Clock Tower building been vetted by city boards because the latest renovation to the building did not trigger that type of review — it has been an office space, and it continues to be with Wayfair's arrival.

Dave Carver, the building's owner, said requesting on-street parking on South Church Street was an item on a long list of ways to address the parking challenge presented by Wayfair's arrival. He also revived an old parking lot on the street and is in negotiations with Miller Supply about using some of its spaces.

Carver said there is plenty of parking around the building now, but he wants to plan ahead as Wayfair reaches for the 300-employee mark.

"We want to make sure we plan well in advance of that need," he said.

The fact that the call center will operate in several shifts mitigates the need, he said, as the employees won't all work at the same time. Staff at The Berkshire Eagle, who also work out of the building, also tend to work in varied shifts.

Carver said that Wayfair doesn't need the on-street parking. But the street is wide enough to bear it, and from a public standpoint it would help address increased traffic in and out of the building.

"Between all the private assets there, we're good for a long time," he said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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