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MassDevelopment to aid in Tyler Street transformation

June 23, 2015 : The Berkshire Eagle, by Jim Therrien

PITTSFIELD — A proposal to transform the Tyler Street business district in the manner of Pittsfield's North and South streets is among 10 in the state that will be a focus for an assistance program being rolled out by MassDevelopment.

The first Districts in Development were selected for planning, enhanced technical and other assistance from MassDevelopment from among submissions entered the state's 26 Gateway Cities. Applications identified local collaborative partnerships, strategic district visions and community engagement plans. 

Kelsey Abbruzzese, a spokeswoman for MassDevelopment, said Monday that the program's Transformative Development Initiative assistance for the Tyler Street neighborhood will begin with a scoping session as early as next week, and over time, staff members will consult and work with city employees, members of the Tyler Street Business Group and others.

The overall plan is to turn the Tyler Street area into a thriving residential neighborhood linking a future innovation district and the Berkshire Medical Center, with stores within walking distance. MassDevelopment is expected to provide a revitalization plan for Tyler Street; evaluate sites, properties, housing stock and other buildings for appropriate reuse, and hold workshops on historic building rehabilitation, business improvement districts, marketing and small-business development.

Abbruzzese said MassDevelopment staff members will evaluate the Tyler Street area's assets and potential over the next six to nine months.

"Transforming the Tyler Street neighborhood and business district is a priority." Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said in a release. "In the past, resources have gone into updating North Street in Pittsfield, and it is time we look into developing our other thriving neighborhoods. The Tyler Street neighborhood is the location of the future Berkshire Innovation Center as well as the William Stanley Business Park, General Dynamics and SABIC."

MassDevelopment is the state's finance and development agency and works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the commonwealth. During fiscal 2014, MassDevelopment financed or managed 314 projects generating investment of more than $2.9 billion in the state's economy.

The projects are projected to create more than 6,300 jobs and build or rehabilitate more than 1,600 residential units.

Diane Marcella, the president of the Tyler Street Business Group, said the organization "is very excited about working with MassDevelopment and the city," and thankful that they "see our potential and recognize our enthusiasm to do what we need to do to make it happen. TDI is the beginning of our opportunity to get this started."

The 10 TDI Districts will sign agreements with MassDevelopment regarding the initial assistance they will receive through TDI, and MassDevelopment is scheduling kickoff meetings with each district this summer. 

"The city of Pittsfield has taken a thoughtful, creative approach to transforming Tyler Street, which will drive the development potential of the former GE site," said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones. 

Corydon Thurston, executive director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, said revival of the Tyler Street area will aid development of the William Stanley Business Park, which PEDA manages. The business park off East Street "is a bookend of the Tyler Street district," Thurston said. 

The MassDevelopment initiative "will help us define a planned approach to integrate, our commercial and light industrial development activities in a way that will help leverage private sector investment in the neighborhood," he said.

© Copyright 2015 The Berkshire Eagle.