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Pittsfield Board Approves Dollar General With Conditions
By Joe Durwin,
05:17PM / Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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The Community Development Board endorsed permitting for a new Dollar General on West Housatonic Street.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Development Board unanimously approved variances to pave the way for a new Dollar General store to be constructed on Route 20, provided it make some aesthetic concessions.

Developers handling the project for the national retailer agreed on Tuesday to a revised site plan that will include an enhanced facade and significantly increased landscaping for the board to endorse a permit for a parking waiver and corner lot variance at the intersection of West Housatonic Street and Callahan Drive.  
 
"We've heard what you said, and we've made efforts to increase our landscaping and soften this project up to make it more presentable for the gateway to your town," said Bob Gage of GBT Realty.
 
The new 9,100-square-foot store will be constructed on a 1.2 acre piece of property owned by Callahan Sign Co.  Dollar General, said its representatives, is not a "dollar store" in the traditional sense, but a discount retailer and variety store of brand merchandise, ranging up to $50 or $60. The store, which will be open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., also offers basic convenience food offerings accounting for about 12 percent of its floor space.
 
In addition to aesthetic issues, the board expressed strong concerns about the waiver sought to develop a lot consisting of only 30 parking spaces, half as many as that generally stipulated by the city for a store this size.  
 
Developers insisted that this parking lot size is a standard model used throughout the company's rapidly growing chain of nearly 11,000 stores, and has proved ideal in all its locations.
 
"This is a national retail chain. These guys will not build a store and underpark themselves, it just defeats the purpose of having the store in operation," said Gage. "Thirty is the max that they've ever put in one of these stores, and they've never exceeeded it."
 

General Proposal
Exterior Elevations
General Blueprint

"I think that because this is located where it is, it could be a destination for people that don't want to go much farther," said Chairwoman Sheila Irvin. "I think there's something to be said for increasing the parking."  
 
"They're in towns that are much larger than Pittsfield, with the same configuration and the same parking, and the stores are not overparked," said Gage, who said these stores handle a firm average of 10 customers at a time, with the average visit lasting 10 minutes.
 
Having satisfied the board with regards to the parking requirements, Gage and colleague Will Goebel of Bohler Engineering presented a backup plan including much more extensive landscaping to "soften" the appearance of the new box store near the city's western border. 
 
"We had about 66 plantings in the original plan, and we're at about 203 plantings now," said Goebel. "So we're at almost three times what the original proposal was as far as landscaping."
 
The project managers also agreed to work with staff of the Community Development Department to alter building materials used in the exterior to move toward what board member Alfred E. Barbalunga termed a more "New England" style and appearance.  
 
The board voted 5-0, with Louis Costi abstaining, to allow the permits, contingent on the department's sign off.
 
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