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Pittsfield Partners With Habitat For Humanity To Fight West Side Blight
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
05:15PM / Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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Local businesses that have given Habitat reduced prices or donated material were honored at the groundbreaking.

An array of city workers from members of the Office of Community Development to City Councilors were on hand for the ceremony.

Trustco Bank presented Habitat with a $25,000 donation.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Where three blighted homes once stood on Prospect Street there will soon stand a brand-new single family home after the city teamed up with the Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity.

With state money, the city took over the blighted property at the intersection of Dewey Avenue and Prospect Street, razed the buildings and turned it over to Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity.

On Wednesday, city officials, Habitat officials and sponsors gathered at the location to break ground on a new home.

"We're going to continue to invest and rebuild the west side," Mayor James Ruberto said. "We continue to add dignity, we continue to add pride to the individuals who will be single family home owners."

The Prospect Street site is one of five areas the city is looking to spruce up with about $1.5 million in state Department of Community Housing and Development money, according to Deanna Ruffer, the city's director of community development.

"For many years this has been an eyesore," Ruffer said. "This is an exciting project for us."

The West Side has become a target for city officials while they look to spruce up the neighborhoods.

Additional blight-fighting projects include new buildings being constructed on Bradford Street, Circular Street, Cherry Street and the former A.H. Rice Silk Mill on Spring Street. The projects are either being rehabbed by the city or Berkshire Housing Development, she said.

For Habitat for Humanity, the Prospect Street development is coupled with the organization's neighborhood revitalization initiative.

"It's just as important to keep people in their homes," Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Carolyn Valli said. "This is just the begriming beginning of what we're going to do."

The revitalization initiative moves beyond just building homes and into maintenance items like winterization and painting, Valli said. Phase 1 of the project is the West Side neighborhood where the organization has partnered with local businesses to improve energy efficiency in existing homes. In Phase 2, the group will move onto the Morningside Park neighborhood.

The program begins with surveys and focus groups with residents and then turns into an action plan with volunteers sprucing up the area, Valli said.

"It's really the whole community," Valli said. "It'll be the community coming together in everyway possible."

Also at the groundbreaking, Trustco Bank honored Habitat for Humanity with a "big check" of $25,000, which will support the organization's projects. Other projects include buildings on Robbins Avenue and Lincoln Avenue. The group has a three- to five-year plan to finish five projects along with the revitalization work, Valli said.
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