Updated 03/29/2012 10:13 PM
Developers help map out a plan for West Street
More o -less, Pittsfield's West Street is regarded as an access point to downtown and the city's west end. But that could change. As our Brandon Walker reports, a group of developers say the strip has potential, if the city can find investors to finance redevelopment.
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Aerial shots of what's being called the West Street corridor showcase a sea of concrete, topped off with several big-box retail stores.
Perhaps not a scene as picturesque as nearby North Street, though, still an area with market potential.
"This becomes a framework for us, then to begin to build project and site specific plans," said Deanna Ruffer, director, Community Development for the City of Pittsfield.
That framework, a day long tour Thursday with developers and consultants from Boston-based Urban Land Institute.
"So what you have to do is build on the strengths of the West Street corridor and take advantage of the opportunities," said Dave Traggorth, a consultant.
Those opportunities include a pathway to the Housatonic River. The panel suggests adding more green space and open access to the waterway.
From there, retrofitting more-or-less empty space, like the old KB Toys building, for market rate housing and retail stores.
"Drawing some pedestrians down, providing a better pedestrian experience to get people there," Traggorth said.
"Use the open space to then organize the sites, then provide a way for marketable uses to occur there, like the housing," said Victor Karen, a consultant.
Though, placing bets on market rate condos, or un-subsidized housing, assumes Pittsfield has the economic base that would accommodate such demand.
"We're hearing from a number of developers that the rental housing market is strong and it is an area where new, market rate units have a high demand," Ruffer said.
"So, you need to replace the housing stock, but you need to figure out a smart way to do that," Karen said.
And that's one of the ways the panel could prove helpful. It will use findings from Thursday's visit, including input from local business owners, to map out a study for the city.
Results that should be ready within the next six weeks.