Pittsfield will use $4.5 million of its ARPA money to begin redeveloping the largest site in the William Stanley Business Park

Berkshire Eagle Feb 16

By Tony Dobrowolski,
Berkshire Eagle
(c) 2023 The Berkshire Eagle

PITTSFIELD — The city of Pittsfield has found the final piece of the financial puzzle it needs to finally begin the renovation of the largest building lot in the William Stanley Business Park, known as Site 9.

Officials announced Wednesday that they have added $4.5 million of the city’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funding into the mix to cover the project’s $10.8 million total estimated price tag. In October, the city received $3 million from the state’s MassWorks program to come within $4.5 million of that final number.

“Myself and the ARPA team consider this to be a significant investment in the future economy and the recovery of our city, post pandemic,” said Mayor Linda M. Tyer, during a news conference at the Berkshire Innovation Center, which is also in the business park.

“If the ARPA funding hadn’t been here we wouldn’t be here today,” Tyer said. “We would still be trying to figure out how to find $4.5 million from other sources. We don’t have $4.5 million in the [city’s] economic development fund. We have just a little over $1 million. So we would have continued to plead and beg and try and it might have been two or three years down the road.”

“This gets us over the hump,” said Michael Coakley, Pittsfield’s business development manager. “It’s been a long process to get the funding for this but we’re finally here.”

Site 9 redevelopment funds

Site readiness grant: $880,000

Brownfields grant: $264,000

GE Landscaping Fund: $1.3 million

PEDA Foundation Fund: $400,000

Economic development earmark: $500,000

MassWorks grant: $3 million

ARPA funding: $4.5 million

Project’s total estimate: $10.8 million

Source: Pittsfield Economic Development Authority

With the funding now in place, the city expects to put the project out to bid this spring with the goal of beginning construction this summer, Tyer said. The first phase will consist of either crushing or cracking the jumble of concrete and asphalt building foundations that have been left on the parcel, capping the debris with green space, and adding roadways and utility lines.

The beginning of the second and third phases will be dependent on the amount of interest that the parcel attracts from prospective tenants once it has been renovated, according to project consultant Mark Arigoni. The fourth and final phase will be the actual construction of a building — or buildings — on the site.

Instead of marketing the parcel as a single building lot, as the city has done in the past, officials have now subdivided it into four smaller parcels to make it easier to attract tenants, Coakley said. If someone was interested in developing just one of those parcels, “that’s all they would have to commit to,” Coakley said.

One entity interested in developing at least part of the entire building lot is Mill Town Capital, the Pittsfield-based private investment firm that owns Bousquet Ski Area. Mill Town’s interest in the site is what helped the city receive the MassWorks grant from the state last fall, Coakley said.
Mill Town CEO Tim Burke, who attended Wednesday’s news conference, confirmed his company’s interest in the site, but said it has no solid plans yet.

City officials have been interested in developing building Site 9, the largest of the 52-acre business park’s nine building lots, since the General Electric Co. transferred ownership of the site in 2012 to the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, a quasi-public agency charged with business park’s development.

Under a consent decree that required GE to clean up PCB contamination in Pittsfield, the company was required to environmentally remediate each parcel before turning it over to PEDA. Site 9 was the last parcel to be transferred.

Two proposals to turn the parcel into a retail complex, including one involving the construction of a Walmart Supercenter, have fallen through over the last 11 years. Development has been hampered by the jumble of building foundations left on the site.

While it was originally thought that leaving the foundations in place would make it easier to build on, that hasn’t been the case. In the past, city officials have referred to the concrete jumble as a moonscape.

Coakley said Wednesday that prospective developers “would moonwalk right out of there” when he would bring them to the site.

The city originally received $40.6 million in ARPA funding from the federal government, but had only $8.9 million left as of December. Tyer said Wednesday that the city probably has a little bit of ARPA funding left following this investment and its housing improvement initiatives, but declined to say how much.

She deferred comment on the exact amount pending a presentation that the city plans to make on its ARPA funding at the next City Council meeting on Feb. 28.

“It’s a continually moving number,” she said.