PITTSFIELD – Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito made a stop in Pittsfield Feb. 16 to tour North Street with Mayor Linda Tyer.
The two privately met at City Hall and subsequently took a walking tour of downtown, which lasted about an hour, and included visits to the Onota Building, the Beacon Cinema and Hotel on North.
Polito said the visit was a way “to spotlight the successes the city is experiencing.”
“Public and private partnerships do work. Public dollars can’t drive this experience alone. But we are good at collaborating, we are good at putting infrastructure dollars in place and, in this case, housing development incentive dollars in place to attract private developers to make hotels and market rate house happen,” Polito said.
Roberta McCulloch-Dews, director of administrative services for the mayor’s office, said the lieutenant governor was especially looking forward to seeing Hotel on North.
The boutique hotel, which opened a year and a half ago, welcomed 15,000 visitors last year while the hotel restaurant Eat on North served over 55,000.
“We all have the same vision of superior hospitality [to make] everyone feel special, [and] make this a great place to be –make it cool, hip, fun,” said hotel owner Laurie Tierney.
TripAdvisor recently named Hotel on North to its Travelers’ Choice list of hotels, with the best guest service in the United States.
“It’s a fantastic honor and we’ve really worked hard to accommodate our guests to help them feel that we’re here to make a difference and make them feel welcome and it’s really paid off,” said Hotel General Manager Paul Clark.
Many guests come in from Boston or New York, but the hotel also attracts international guests, according to Clark.
“For a rebranding town, it’s amazing what’s taking place here,” he said.
During the first half of the visit, the mayor stressed to Polito the need to create a foundation for young professionals emerging in Pittsfield.
Real estate developer Louis Allegrone, of the Allegrone Companies in Lenox, headed the renovation of the Onota Building into residential units and said his tenants are mostly young professionals and empty-nesters.
“I think what’s made it possible for Lou and other developers to do market-rate housing is that downtown is now a vibrant place to be,” Tyer told Polito. “There’s the theater district, there are restaurants, there’s a liveliness that inspires people to want to live downtown.”
Allegrone completed the Onota renovation last fall. It now accommodates 25 apartment units, 24 of which are occupied. A two-bedroom apartment comes with a $1500 price tag.
“What came first was the art and cultural economy, and then the housing came next,” Tyer said.
The Onota building is the second building the Allegrone Companies has revamped in Pittsfield. The first was the Howard Building on Federal Street.
“There are a lot of historical buildings and they could use redevelopment – a new life. Hopefully this [renovation] will spark the next one,” Allegrone said.
Jesse Cook-Dubin, president of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., said he believes more people will come downtown as emerging businesses start to carry “everyday things” instead of turning to Amazon or the outlet mall in Lee.
“We have a critical mass that we’re not at yet for that stuff to be sustainable, so it’s one building at a time,” he said.
Tyer said the city plans to extend its development programs on Tyler Street as well as North Street.
“What’s unique about Pittsfield is that you’re in an urban area but you’re in the middle of the Berkshires,” Polito said.
The lieutenant governor said she views Pittsfield as an area with strong leadership, referencing the mayor’s office, city cultural leaders and the business community.
“You’re see a revitalization and a reuse of some of these beautiful, historical older structures into marketplace housing, bringing both young prof and older citizens to a downtown area to experience the renaissance of culture, dining and activities that contribute to a vibrant city like Pittsfield,” Polito said.
This article first appeared in The Berkshire Courier.