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Developer Looks To Turn Old Pittsfield Warehouse Into Retail Space
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
10:21PM / Tuesday, December 04, 2012
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James Scalise presented the zoning change to the Community Development Board on Tuesday night.

The warehouse on Dalton Avenue is near Berkshire Crossings in what James Scalise of SK Design believes is a 'very desireable' location for retail.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Development Board is giving its nod of approval for a zoning petition that will allow a 75-year-old warehouse be renovated into commercial space.

James Scalise of SK Design is asking the city to change the zoning for 999 Dalton Ave. to allow limited business and commercial use. The change would allow Freight House Reality LLC to turn the old warehouse near Berkshire Crossings into retail.

The warehouse is listed in sales records as being built in 1929 and Scalise says it has been operating as a warehouse since then. The building and the 5.83 acres it sits on was sold to Freight House Reality, for which Scalise and Ronald Carver are listed as company managers, from Crane & Co. in February for $200,000. The company is now leasing the space for $1 to the nonprofit Soldier On.

Scalise is eyeing the elimination of a "forest of columns" inside, installing potovoltaic panels and the possible addition of a second floor. Then the group will market it for a tenant. Scalise estimates that it would up the commercial tax value by about 10 percent.

"Currently it is an unheated warehouse," Scalise told the board.

Scalise said he has already met with the abutters and presented them the idea last Thursday and he has since tweaked the proposal to meet concerns — such as the inclusion of a voluntary deed restriction to eliminate any light manufacturing.

However the biggest and most cumbersome issue is traffic congestion.

With commercial growth in the area, such as the new BJs Wholesale just down the road from Berkshire Crossings, traffic has become congested in Coltsville, which is leading many drivers to take a "shortcut" through Meadowview Drive and the neighboring residential streets to get to Cheshire Road.

Bernard Houle, of Morningview Drive, has seen the change in his 40 years living in the neighborhood and told the board that he doesn't think any new commercial space should be available until the traffic congestion is reduced.

"It's getting horrendous," Houle said, adding that is going to get worse when Greylock Insurance Co. opens in the Allendale Shopping Center. "There is going to be a bad accident at that intersection... People are now getting frustrated and running red lights."

Houle said he has seen traffic significantly backed up Merrill Road and down to Cheshire Road. The residential neighborhood where Houle lives is now seeing a tremendous amount of traffic with people trying to avoid the intersection.

Ward 1 Councilor Christine Yon said she doesn't know if this development particularly would cause traffic to get worse but recognized a congestion problem. Yon called for at least a traffic study because neighbors on the Cheshire Road side are using those back streets frequently because they can't get onto the main road because of the traffice congestion.

Scalise said he would go to the Traffic Commission and advocate for "traffic calming measures" that include narrowing the side street or placing rough gravel down to deter drivers from wanting to use those residential streets.

The Community Development Board approved the zoning change despite the traffic issues because it is a "good direction to go for reuse" of the old building. Scalise added that commercial space there is listed in the city's master plan.

The zoning change will now go to the City Council.

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