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Pittsfield Preparing Morningside Fire Station RFP
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
05:52PM / Saturday, November 16, 2019
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Pittsfield will again request proposals for the long vacant Morningside fire station but is also considering whether it's time to demolish the building.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city plans to reissue another request for proposals for the Morningside fire station with developers' interest ramping up.
 
The City Council on Tuesday heard from Paula Messena during public comment who said she and her partner Scott Graves were interested in developing the long vacant fire station.
 
"I stand before you today publicly announcing our interest in the Morningside fire station," she said. "Scott Graves and I have shown on numerous occasions interest in the building but have never officially been acknowledged by the city."
 
Graves purchased the YMCA boathouse on Pontoosuc Lake and renovated it as the Rusty Anchor. He recently ran in the preliminary election for mayor on a platform focused on the red tape he says makes it difficult for developers to save old buildings and start businesses. 
 
The historic fire station has fallen into disrepair over the years and the city has made attempts to offload it to a developer. Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood said at a recent City Council meeting that if there is no interest in the building the city will have to take a serious look at demolishing it.
 
Messena did not see this as a respectable option and responded to the statement. 
 
"It is a piece of history that the city cannot deny and it should not be subjected to a wrecking ball when there is a proven a qualified team to take on the challenge," she said. "It is the gateway to the Tyler Street Transformative Development Initiative."
 
In an email exchange, Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer said the city has released RFPs on multiple occasions, the first one being in 2013. 
 
The city received a proposal that had to be turned down.
 
She said there was more interest in the building and additional RFPs were released in January 2014, March 2017, and in May 2017.
 
There were no proposals. 
 
Ruffer said the city recognized that redevelopment of a historic structure can be a challenge so before releasing another RFP, it has invited potential developers to tour the building first.
 
She said this allows developers to do their "due diligence" before the RFP is released.
 
"A number of parties have taken advantage of this offer and have spent significant time and resources going through the building with contractors, engineers, and architects," she said. "In fact, one party prepared a detailed feasibility analysis, which they shared with the City (and we have shared with those who have demonstrated a serious interest in the property) once they determined the building would not meet their needs."
 
She said communication between the city and these parties has been constant 
 
"In some instances, the further investigations have resulted in some parties advising the city they were no longer interested in bidding on the property; in others, to our knowledge, the parties may still be interested in responding to an RFP," she said.
 
Messena said the developers plan to convert the fire station into a restaurant dedicated to the city's first-responders, nurses, doctors, and Vietnam veterans.
 
She said she hoped the city would extend an "olive branch" to help save the historic building and "roll out the red carpet" to help make the project a success.
 
Ruffer reiterated that the city has allowed multiple opportunities for developers to communicate their interests and tour the building. 
 
"We appreciate the interest expressed by the individual during the open microphone portion of the City Council this past Tuesday, and for the record, they have been offered the opportunity to access the building, as have all who have expressed an interest.," she said. "We continue to encourage anyone who is interested in this building to take advantage of the city’s willingness to provide access to the building in advance of the issuance of the RFP."
 
Ruffer said a release date has yet to be determined but the city is currently in the process of removing remaining equipment left in the building. She said environmental assessment work is also being done and the condition of critical structural elements of the property is being documented to better inform the RFP.
 
She said the city is also advancing streetscape and other in-fill development plans for the Tyler Street corridor. She said this could impact the long-term value and use of this property. She said this information should also be included in the RFP.
 
Responders will have to provide information about their plans for the property and demonstrate their ability to successfully implement these plans.  
 
"These requirements will help ensure that once this property is transferred to a private owner, it will be redeveloped in a timely manner," she said. "It is not in the City’s, community’s, or neighborhood’s best interest to transfer ownership only to have the property remain in a blighted condition for an extended period or to have the structure demolished after we are led to believe the structure would be saved."
 
In other business, The City Council voted hire Justin Brady and Jesse Shulman as permanent firefighters with the Pittsfield Fire Department.
 
The City Council approved the reappointment of Patricia Begrowicz and Thomas Sakshuag to the Airport Commission. It also appointed Melissa O'Dell to the Airport Commission.
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