Pittsfield's historic Howard Building is reborn

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PITTSFIELD -- When the city created the arts overlay district in 2005, the idea was to develop a mix of retail and residential properties that would enhance the appeal of living and working in downtown Pittsfield.

The newly renovated Howard Building on Federal Street isn't the first rehabilitated downtown structure to fit into that category, but it does achieve what city officials had envisioned nine years ago.

The Allegrone Construction Co. of Pittsfield, which purchased the mostly vacant structure for $400,000 in 2011, has created 14 apartments on the second and third floors, and 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The renovation work took about a year.

"This is the exact type of mixed use project that we want to be encouraging in the downtown area," said city planner C.J. Hoss. "It adds density to downtown with residents, and new commercial space, all the things we definitely want to continue developing downtown."

The building officially opened Sunday with a three-hour open house event, but Allegrone Construction Vice President Louis E. Allegrone said the apartments won't be available for occupancy until July 1.

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There are about 20 names on a waiting list for the one- and two-bedroom units, whose monthly rents range from $950 to $1,400, Allegrone said.

"The intent is to provide high-end apartments at an affordable cost," Allegrone said.

The retail space has yet to be leased.

The project's $4.8 million price tag includes $1.9 million in state and federal historic tax credits, and $400,000 in Housing Development Incentive Program tax credits from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. According to Allegrone, this is the first project that qualified for the city's HDIP tax credit program, which began in 2012.

The Howard Building was originally constructed in 1916 by former county commissioner Frank Howard to house his hardware and agricultural implements business, which later became a seed company. The business closed for good in 1960.

Allegrone said his company gutted the building's interior, but was able to retain several of the structure's historic features, including the beams, the existing plaster and millwork, and some flooring.

"Everything else is modern and brand new," he said.

The building was eligible to receive historic tax credits because it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Allegrone said his company applied for that designation after purchasing the structure, and that the first application was rejected by the National Park Service.

"We appealed it with an abundance of history and they did accept it," Allegrone said.

The restoration of the Howard Building is part of a two-part $12 million project to bring 39 market-rate apartments into the downtown corridor. The second portion of the project involves Allegrone's restoration of the Onota Building on 74 North St.

"Hopefully, this fall," Allegrone said when asked when the renovation of the Onota Building was scheduled to begin. "Our funding package has to be solidified."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
(413) 496-6224.


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