|Tyer Eyes Potential Purchase, Demolition of Blighted Gas Station|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
01:12AM / Friday, May 17, 2019
|The former Hess gas station on Tyler Street could possibly be torn down and turned into green space.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Linda Tyer has a tentative plan to get rid of the eyesore of a former Hess gas station on Tyler Street.
In the proposed capital budget, Tyer is seeking funds to purchase the property and turn it into green space. The mayor said on Monday the parcel has been identified as an important piece of redevelopment on Tyler Street and the city has agreed to take ownership, provided the owners are willing to sell to MassDevelopment.
"If so, the city has informed MassDevelopment that it is willing to take ownership of the property and, at least as an interim measure, demolish the existing structures and create a passive green space," Tyer wrote in an email.
"We would then initiate a planning process with the community to determine the best long-term use of the property, be it development for a mix of commercial and housing or maintenance as green space."
The request is for $200,000 in the budget but Tyer said the owner's willingness to sell won't be known until mid-summer. Nonetheless, the request is aimed to put the city in a position to take over the property should it become available.
"By mid-year, we hope to have a better sense of the current owner's willingness to work with MassDevelopment and the city to improve the condition of this property for the Tyler Street Gateway," Tyer said.
The parcel has been noted multiple times as a banner carrier for blighted conditions in the city. The Transformative Development Initiative ran an online survey looking for input on the future of Tyler Street and the gas station was the most cited area of focus -- with many looking for it to become public use. During a recent election, a state representative candidate launched an improv cleanup of the parcel to spruce it up a bit. The barriers preventing entry have been painted colorfully and during the Better Block event last summer, the area was transformed into a temporary mini-golf course.
However, the station, owned by Marathon Petroleum Co., has yet to see a massive improvement. City officials said they've previously attempted to contact owners to find out their plans but decisions on what it they wanted to do with the parcel were undetermined.
The city is partnering with MassDevelopment, which has a real estate arm to assist with projects such as this. The green space idea for the station could only be short-term.
The project is only a small percentage of the $10,789,300 capital budget but given the focus the parcel has received in recent years from residents, may be one of the most notable.
The project goes along with another $2 million request to renovate Tyler Street. The Department of Community Development has been behind a redesign of the main road through Morningside for some time and the $2 million request would bring that to fruition.
Another $1.5 million is proposed to renovate the intersection of Woodlawn, Tyler Street, and Dalton Avenue -- a project that had once eyed to be done through federal grants, and then by a private development but to no avail.
The majority of the capital budget consists of equipment for various departments. The largest capital request is for $2.5 million for roads. That is the same amount as last year and is used for road construction. The Department of Public Services is also proposed to see an appropriation of $500,000 to make stormwater improvements -- the same amount allocated last year.
The department is also seeking to replace numerous vehicles include a one-ton hook lift all-season truck, one-ton utility body truck with plow, a one-ton pickup truck with and without a plow, all-wheel-drive sports utility vehicle, a one-ton van, a multi-purpose tractor with attachments, and a street sweeper.
The proposed capital budget includes resurfacing athletic courts, a project the city has undertaken over a number of years to improve surfaces of basketball courts throughout the park system. It also calls for $250,000 for repairs to the Wild Acres dam.
The multi-year renovation of the Springside House would continue with another $500,000 allocation, an increase in allocation from last year's $400,000. The Westside Riverway Park would see $100,000 for construction, another $75,000 would go toward designing a future phase of the Ashuwilticook Rail Trail extension, and $52,500 would go toward the development of a pickle ball facility at Springside Park, a project that has received pushback from the Springside Conservancy.
The airport only has one capital purchase in the proposal, asking for $30,000 for a blower attachment for snow removal operations. The proposal capital plan also calls for $750,000 in upgrading elevators in schools and improvements to school security systems. Three elevators -- in City Hall, the Library, and the Senior Center -- are all also proposed to be repaired with a $750,000 allocation.
The Police and Fire departments are also eyed for a number of equipment replacements. The capital budget for the Fire Department includes a new inspection vehicle, safety officer vehicle, portable radio replacements, and self-contained breathing apparatus replacements. The capital budget for the Police Department includes a support service vehicle, radio replacements, computer replacement, MDT replacement, new technology and software, a lake patrol boat, and replacing the chief's vehicle.
Finally, the capital budget calls for building security access upgrades to the tune of $98,000 through the Information Technology Department.
Meanwhile, the water and sewer systems will get $6.1 million in upgrades in a separate capital budget, one for the enterprise accounts. These systems are maintained through water and sewer bills and rates have been tentatively approved over the course of seven years with these projects taken into account. The first rate increase was certainly noticed by residents the first quarter of this year when a large increase was approved for both.
The largest project in the enterprise accounts is to upgrade the Ashley and Cleveland water treatment plants at a cost of $5.2 million. The Water Department would also see two replacement vehicles.
On the sewer side, upgrades to the collection system, efforts to solve infiltration and inflow issues throughout the system would continue, and a replacement truck. The sewer enterprise capital budget is notably just $575,000 of the $6.1 million worth of repairs as the entire wastewater treatment plant is currently undergoing a full reconstruction.
iBerkshires will be providing more in depth coverage when the City Council debates the capital budget in the near future.