Great Barrington — The first phase of the much-awaited mixed-use Powerhouse Square development project on Bridge Street will likely begin later this month or next.
Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin told the selectmen at their meeting on Monday (Nov. 27) that demolition of the former Laramee Cleaners building, between the current Berkshire Co-op Market store and the Pittsfield Cooperative bank, could begin as early as this month.
“They’re going to be doing asbestos removal in the buildings before demolishing them and the once the old cleaners building is removed, they’re going to remediate them and prepare the foundations for the new buildings,” Tabakin said.
Michael Charles, a co-principal of the Lenox-based development company Benchmark, confirmed to The Edge that demolition would begin soon enough but he pointed to the following month as the more likely start date.
“Demolition, by time we get to the cleaners, might be January,” Charles said in an interview. “We’re trying to line up various land closings and work with subcontractors.”
Tabakin said there will have to be coordination between Benchmark and the town. At approximately the same time, construction will be taking place on Bridge Street as part of a $2.1 million MassWorks grant from the state.
That project will result in newly paved roads, new sidewalks, improved drainage and lighting, and underground utilities. Charles says Benchmark and its subcontractors plan to meet weekly with Town Planner Chris Rembold to coordinate times, dates and equipment.
“We will fold those meetings into our project going forward, so the plan is to try to coordinate so that we get all our stuff out of the street,” Charles explained.
Tabakin said there will be some impact on traffic patterns on Bridge Street and on-street parking “but the street should remain open and our development review team has reviewed their coordination plan.”
“And we hope that the asphalt will be coordinated with the work of the co-op building but it could be that it’s not completely paved while that co-op building is going to be built,” Tabakin added.
The first phase of the $15 million development plan will feature a 14,500-square-foot new location for the Berkshire Co-op Market. Benchmark hopes to have that completed by the fall.
Powerhouse Square, as the development will be known, will also feature retail and office spaces and 22 modern condominiums in the same building as the new market. A new parking lot will go where the Co-op currently sits. The Co-op, which will remain open for the duration of the construction, will be the retail anchor with a long-term lease from Benchmark, the developer and owner of the property.
The second phase will see the construction of a 32-unit condominium complex and parking garage set back to the south, closer to the John Dewey Academy property, also known as Searles Castle. Charles declined to venture a guess as to when that would start.
Benchmark has also agreed to work with the town to improve the ballfields at the adjacent Memorial Field — perhaps by building a retaining wall between the parking lot and the field that would allow for more places to sit and view games or to simply sit outside.
Benchmark will also be required to consult with the town on the upcoming aforementioned MassWorks project, which includes not only infrastructure improvements on Bridge Street but Bentley Avenue and Church Street as well.
That grant was awarded in 2015 as a result of the expected growth, increased traffic and run-off generated by some large proposed developments on Bridge Street that include two slow-moving projects: an 88-room hotel in the former Searles Middle School, and a planned mixed-use development at 100 Bridge Street — both in addition to Powerhouse Square itself.
Those projects will change the face of the Bridge Street corridor, coming as they do on the heels of the redevelopment of the former Bryant Elementary School by Iredale Mineral Cosmetics Inc., which opened its world headquarters there in 2014.
And another development project could alter the landscape on the other side of Main Street. The Framework project at 47 Railroad Street is projected to be completed in March.
Framework will feature 13 market-rate apartments in the building at the top of Railroad Street formerly occupied by Mario’s Tuscany Grill and Martin’s Restaurant. A new restaurant will also be a part of the Framework project. The apartments will add to pedestrian traffic and the retail outlets will further contribute to the downtown business climate.