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Morning Star Apartments at Former St. Mary's Church Near Completion
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
06:33AM / Saturday, January 09, 2021
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The Morning Star project, started two years ago, has transformed the former church property on Tyler Street into 29 market-rate apartments. The final units are being completed.

The church has 11 units but the former church's nave and altar areas have been kept as common space.

Efforts were made to keep many of the original woodwork and painted decorations intact.

A stairway to the upper floor that opens on to a bridge to the other side of the buildings.

Views from one of the apartments.

The buildings on the complex have been transformed into one to three bedroom market-rate apartments. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — CT Management Group has substantially completed the Morning Star Project, a conversion of the former St. Mary of the Morning Star Church on Tyler Street into 29 market-rate apartments.

The Morning Star complex consists of the church, convent, rectory, and school building. A good majority of the 29 units are already rented out. Just last week, the remaining open apartments located in the former St. Mary's school began leasing and are expected to go off the market quickly.

Developer David Carver said the main priority of the project was to preserve as much of the interior and exterior detail of the original buildings as possible while meeting functional requirements and building permits.

He said this is one of the biggest challenges in restoring old buildings and changing their use. The project's attention to detail resulted in a harmonious mix of original elements and modernized features.

In the church building, residents enter through the former altar area and are greeted by an expansive ceiling mural. In the third-floor hallway, hand-painted original beams line the ceiling and residents can even get a glimpse of the former church in the front entranceway, as the original doors were preserved but blocked from use for fire code.

"I would say we caught this one just in time," Carver said, as the building had been sitting empty and was starting to experience minor ceiling leaks when construction began.  

St. Mary's Church was built in 1942. It is a Lombard Romanesque style building that is commonly seen across Italy. The church has a history on the property dating back to 1913 when the school was built and served as the original church.

The rectory and convent buildings were constructed after the new church in 1954.

St. Mary's closed in 2008 as part of a regionwide consolidation plan implemented by the Diocese of Springfield. It was empty for several years until it was under contract with a developer who planned to demolish the buildings to construct a Dunkin' Donuts restaurant with a drive-through.

This idea was scrapped when it became clear that there was little support for the concept and the property was put back on the market. This is when CT Management Group planned the purchase and adaptive re-use of the four buildings into market-rate housing.

Carver said market-rate housing meeting a rental range between $1,200 and $1,800 a month is in high demand in Berkshire County. Little of this type of housing was built in the last 30 years, he added.

According to Carver, a majority of tenants at St. Mary's are young professionals. A good majority of the tenants work at General Dynamics, as the company has expanded its workforce in the past couple of years, and others work at Berkshire Medical Center or local cultural institutions.

From speaking with Carver, you can tell that he has a great deal of pride in the outcome of the buildings. He said the church building was the most sensitive, complicated, and expensive to convert. The church's renovation began about two years ago and ended last spring.

Additionally, the school building was essentially completely rebuilt from the inside out because of the condition it was in.  

Considering the high-quality materials used for the church building, Carver thinks that it has just begun its life at nearly 80 years old.

"The building is 80 years old-78 years old today, and for this type of construction it's a relatively new building," he said. "Properly maintained, this is a 500-year building."

This project was well-received by the public and, without much publicity, CT Management Group was able to rent out most of the apartments.

"We received lots of support from the neighborhood and from the city and from the state," Carver said. "And so we could focus all of our attention, instead of fighting battles like Dunkin' Donuts would have to battle, all of our time and attention we could devote to doing a nice job renovating the building."

CT Management has found its niche in the market of renovating churches into apartments. In the last decade, it has converted churches into the Power House Lofts on Seymour Street and the Notre Dame Residences on Melville Street. It has also converted a church in North Adams and another in Williamstown into housing.

"CT Management Group is extremely grateful for the support received from the City of Pittsfield, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Mass Development, the Diocese of Springfield, Berkshire Bank, Mill Town Capital, the Tyler Street Business Group, and the Friends of St. Mary's," Carver said. "Combined with the other projects planned or in progress by the City of Pittsfield, Mill Town Capital, and other private investors, the Tyler Street corridor has a bright future and should see steady sustainable growth and improvements for many years."

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