Work begins on cracking and crushing concrete foundations blanketing Site 9 at the William Stanley Business Park

Farewell Foundations from the Berkshire Eagle

By Greg Sukiennik
Berkshire Eagle
(c) 2024 The Berkshire Eagle

PITTSFIELD — PITTSFIELD — A vast sea of concrete sits at the corner of Tyler Street and Woodlawn Avenue, where thousands of General Electric workers once built power transformers.

The buildings — better known as the “teens,” for the numbers assigned them — are long gone. The end is finally coming for those old foundations, too.

Workers from William J. Keller & Sons Construction Corp. got to work on Monday, putting a fleet of heavy equipment to work on the 16.5 acre Site 9 for the concrete cracking and crushing to come. It’s the largest parcel available in the William Stanley Business Park.

On the south end of the property, near the CSX rail right of way, a piledriver was punching holes in the century-old concrete. Front-end loaders and dump trucks were operating closer to the north end of the site.

If all goes according to plan, a ready-to-build site topped with 100,000 cubic yards of clean fill, complete with roads and utilities, will take shape by mid-October.

“It’s nice to see shovels in the ground,” said Michael Coakley, the interim director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, while watching the work from the Woodlawn Avenue bridge on Monday afternoon.

When GE turned over 52 acres of industrial property to PEDA a dozen years ago, it was thought leaving the Site 9 foundations in place would speed, rather than hamper, redevelopment. But opposite proved to be true — most notably when a Needham-based developer scrapped plans to build a Walmart Supercenter on the site.

Coakley said the concept remains as previously envisioned: Retail and commercial uses along Tyler Street Extension, and office and industrial uses near the CSX rail right of way. That right of way includes a rail siding that could be rebuilt to serve future tenants.

The work will also include plantings, landscaping and a pocket park across from the intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and Kellogg Street.

The work, funded by a $10.8 million mix of budget earmarks, state economic development grants and American Rescue Plan Act funds, will make the site more attractive to developers by eliminating the expense of crushing the century-old concrete.
“I think this is one of the largest economic development programs we have run in the city right now,” Coakley said. “I’ve taken a few companies over there to look at it and they have plans to do a 50,000-square-foot or 100,000-square-foot building, but then they’d still be surrounded by moonscape. … So this is going to make it much more attractive to potential developers.

The PEDA board of directors awarded the construction contract to Keller & Sons, of Castleton-on-Hudson, N.Y., in December.

“We’ve been working on this project about three years now, starting with planning, design and permitting,” Coakley said. “This is a total site preparation, getting it development-ready.”

About 25,000 cubic yards of fill that will be used on Site 9 will be trucked over from Site 8, which sits between Kellogg Street and the CSX tracks. Another 75,000 cubic yards of fill will be trucked in.

To date, core samples have returned “very low” levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, Coakley said. General Electric used the chemical in transformer manufacturing and disposed of it on the site and in the Housatonic River. The chemical was banned as a probable cause of cancer in 1979, and the agreement that created PEDA also set the framework for cleanup of the GE site and the Housatonic River.

As the work is taking place in a former industrial site where PCBs were used, the permitting process required approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Berkshire Environmental Consultants has been subcontracted to conduct air monitoring, Coakley said.

Keller, which submitted a low bid of $9.8 million, has also done work at Bousquet Mountain Ski Area, the Clark Art Institute and Williams College. J. H. Maxymillian of Pittsfield was the other bidder, and Coakley said they will be working as a subcontractor on the project as well.

To date, PEDA has three tenants: MountainOne Bank, the multitenant Berkshire Innovation Center business incubator and Eversoure.

Michael Coakley, interim executive director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, stands in front of Site 9 at the William Stanley Business Park, on the former GE transformer site in Pittsfield on Monday. GILLIAN JONES-HECK — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE

This rendering shows how the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority envisions Site 9 once concrete cracking and crushing and landscaping is complete. The vision for the site includes retail and commercial development along Tyler Street Extension, and commercial and industrial development near the CSX rail right of way. PITTSFIELD ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

A worker from William J. Keller & Sons Construction uses a hydraulic breaker, or jackhammer, on an excavator to prepare the site for cracking and crushing the foundations of long-since demolished buildings at Site 9, a 16.5 acre parcel of the former GE Power transformer site in Pittsfield. It was found that the concrete foundations had to be removed to promote development. GILLIAN JONES-HECK — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE