IT WON’T HAPPEN IN THE BB OR IN ANY OTHER LOCAL MEDIA OUTLET, BUT IT HAPPENS HERE, ON THE PLANET: WHY THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF RETAIL SHOPPING FOR THE PEDA SITE REPRESENTS THE HIJACKING OF THE SITE, OUT OF THE HANDS OF WE THE PEOPLE AND INTO THE HANDS OF ???
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, DEC. 23, 2011) — Happy 90th birthday to MOM PLANET!
From Biotech to Big Box. From Big Box to Big Disappointment. What in the world is going on with the PEDA site?
First, we turn to the Boring Broadsheet. The editorial, unsigned as always, gushes about how the annunciation of retail on 16 acres of the William Stanley Business Park will stop global warming, ensure lasting peace among all nations, and keep the planets aligned for years to come. In its “news” coverage yesterday, the BB broke out the Second Coming type size to announce “Builder’s big plans: Shopping Plaza may bring jobs.” We love the use of “may.” It means, alternately, that it “may not” bring jobs. The story ignores what kind of jobs the “may jobs” will be: minimum wage compensation with lousy benefits.
The jobs “could … invigorate the Morningside community. Then again, it “could not.” Permitting is “expected” in 2012. Construction is “projected” to commence in 2013. Developers for this project from the Phantom Zone refused to identify the anchor store (Shhh … Don’t tell anybody, but it is “expected to be” a Lowe’s Big Box Home Improvement Center). With Berkshire Crossings, BJ’s, the Allendale Shopping Center, the Berkshire Mall, and other replicas already having saturated Pittsfield and environs, it’s hard to see how the “expected” retail center on the PEDA site will be the “economic engine” that will placed a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage.
Yet even at that, the announcement of Needham-based Waterstone Development (now negotiating a lease from the PEDA authority) raises a much more underlying problem: Lack of a coherent economic development strategy and continued secrecy in doing We The People’s business. First, there’sPEDA executive director Gary Grunin making the unilateral announcement that from now and going forward, only 1/4 of the PEDA site will be targeted for manufacturing.
Since when did PEDA and the city do a complete reversal and redefine the PEDA mission, basically, dumbing it down to monolithic Big Box sterility and homogenization? Did PEDA have closed sessions where they decided to ignore the master plan? Where are the minutes, if so? Mayor Jimmy Ruberto said talks with Waterstone have been going on for a year. When, where, why, and how did the city decide to give up the ghost on manufacturing, the same as it did with Dan Fox Drive, and turn PEDA into another cesspool — this time, not of industrial toxins (which are still buried on the site) but of toxic local politics.
The courting of retail in a city that cannot sustain A-Level shopping dooms the city to more blight, more jobs that fail to provide a living, and more wasted opportunity.
Since 1998, this is all we have to show for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring back meaningful jobs?
* A branch office of Mountain One bank. There weren’t enough banks. What are the political connections that made this possible?
* Plans for Action Ambulance to located a regional HQ on the PEDA property. Action is in Pittsfield as the second ambulance company largely because of Boston politics (didn’t indicted and convicted House speaker Sal DiMasi, now in federal prison, speak in favor of Action on the House floor?) and the work behind-the-scenes of former mayor Gerry Doyle. How much has Doyle personally profited from Action’s arrival? How much will be added to that stash if it builds on the PEDA site. The city did not need a second ambulance. County Ambulance and the Pittsfield Fire Department would have been the best option. Instead, the city ignored the firefighters and added an unnecessary layer — apparently for the sole reason of secret, cesspool politics.
* A “proposed” retail complex that “may” add an “expected” number of dead-end service-sector jobs.
What terms will Waterstone demand? You can bet and likely win on terms practically ruinous to city taxpayers and favorable to the developers, whose profits will leave Berkshire County entirely and head East, to fill pockets out Boston way.
The there’s this ominous quote from Neil Shalom, Waterstone partner: “We decided to come here because someone we work with made us aware of the potential opportunity here.” THE PLANET begs your pardon, Mr. Shalom: You decided to spend millions here not because you performed a detailed study, market analysis, and other rigorous due diligence? You can to Pittsfield, to the ineffectual political monstrosity known as PEDA “because someone you work with made [you] aware of the potential opportunity”?
No who is that someone. Why didn’t you name this person. Is this shadowy figure a former disgraced mayor of Pittsfield?
THE PLANET now presents other comments on this PEDA non-development. This is a round-up of comments given at this site and Facebook:
By JOE PINHEAD
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary:
Ripped off again? Or how to put a happy face on failure.
As I was reading the headlines that yet another tenant was looking to occupy property in the William Stanley Business Park, I was genuinely hopeful that something meaningful would be coming forward: Something like an office building or some sort of light manufacturing or something that would make use of the rail transportation. Nope were going to get yet another strip mall or Berkshire Crossings complete with a big box retailer that most certainly will be required to add 15% to the corporate bottom line. Worse most if not all of the profits will be used to prop up some corporate office far far away from here.
Once again the leaders of this City prove to us they have no understanding of Economic Development or of commitment. Where does a feller start with this one?
I guess some history is in order first, I will start like all good fairy tales do in the fair city of Pittsfield.
Once upon a time there was a Chemist here in the City of Pittsfield who worked for a company that was on the cutting edge of technology. The chemist under the direction and guidance of that company toiled with his team of scientists, engineer,s and technicians, pushing the bounds of the chemistry field . Many considered him the professor of a university. Yes folks, Daniel Fox — the father of Lexan polycarbonate resin and the informal founder of the school known as Dan Fox University — was memorialized not with just a street but an entire area in the city of Pittsfield that area known as Dan Fox Drive.
Dan Fox Drive was set aside to be the “Silicon Valley” of the City, the High Tech area used to draw researchers and high tech business here to our fair city, but as you might recall, about 10 years ago the then Mayor and the Council were approached to rezone the area and, suddenly, Dan Fox Drive morphed; it was going to be a tourist and cultural Mecca, if only we hurried and rezoned and built the Patriot resort.
Once again this box hotel was going to bring hundreds of jobs and save our fair city and create a need for restaurants and other small-scale offerings. There were those who counseled against the plan or at least a more deliberative and inclusive discussion, but alas, they were told: “We must hurry and allow this or there will be nothing but gloom and despair on the horizon.”
We sacrificed one of the prime areas for high tech in the city for is now a defunct entity. Doesn’t seem like a wise move in hindsight.
Now we read that the big interest — suddenly — is in putting a retail center in the William Stanley Business park. This isn’t economic development. This is foolish at best. First of all everyone knows retail is not a stimulus for economic development but an outgrowth of a successful economic development program with years of careful tendering. People spend money they have in surplus — i.e., disposable income — at retail outlets. The economy that is developed by this action will determine the type style and size of the retail outlets.
A master plan was properly developed, payed for, and adopted by the PEDA board some years back. The master plan included comments from the public that were incorporated into the document. From the PEDA website: “It includes 52 acres near the heart of downtown, with 12 distinct sites providing opportunities for a range of businesses, from IT and finance, to biotech and light industrial.” I often confuse Biotech with Lowes, like you probably do.
Folks, this property is way too valuable to allow for this type development in the heart of the city. If someone wants to put retail in the city, there are any number of more suitable locations.
We need to voice our concerns loud and often on this issue. The Park was set up tobe a campus type environment with walking paths and trails to enjoy the outdoors and Silver Lake, yes Silver Lake. I visit campuses all over the country, not college campuses but business parks where intellectual property is developed and research and development is done, and I can’t recall a single one next to a KMART. What will become of the light rail? Wasted? Can the neighborhood survive the traffic? And can the fragile environment survive the paving and all that goes with a retail setting of that size?
And as we learned here on THE PLANET, 75% of the people in this area do not have adequate health insurance how will another set of entry level positions change this?
We need to vet this one out. Stay tuned
We thank Joe Pinhead. Now we Move on to Facebook and this posting:
By MIKE WARD, Ward 4 city councilor
Special to the PLANET via Facebook
I do not share the Eagle editorial board’s enthusiasm for building a shopping center in the Williams Stanley Business Park. This does not feel like a “pragmatic move,” as they call it. It feels a lot like “settling” to me.
Some businesses bring money into the community, some just move money around the community, while other businesses literally siphon money out of the community. That is what this deal represents: siphoning of money. I realize that we cannot always guide development as much as we’d like to. It is a free country after all, and things like BJ’s are going to happen on private land.
But *this* is a parcel we should have a say in. Did the people of Pittsfield get a chance to sign off on this lowering-of-standards for re-development of the site? No. I’m a city councilor and I didn’t even get the memo. I could not be more disappointed.
We thank our Right Honorable Good Friend, outgoing councilor Ward, for his permission to use his FB posting. Now we hera from the unsinkable Molly.
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
I drive by The Patriot Suites often and wonder what in the heck is going to happen with that building? Is it just rotting away and will soon be yet another eyesore in Pittsfield? Also, how many tenants are now in the “business park” out there? I think the US Gov’t closed the National Archives, and so that leaves just Berkshire Hematology & Oncology?
Pittsfield can’t attract any other businesses to this “business park”. Also, I’d be interested to see the actual deal on this “big box retailer” — just how many tax breaks are we giving them? How long will it be until the City sees ANY tax revenue from this? And how many businesses are going to be interested in being a neighbor of a Lowe’s vs. a tenant in a nice business park where they can bring in potential clients to impress them? I’d like to see some more thought put into this as well… Sounds like it’s too late, though – all the thought that’s going to be put into it has already taken place (none?).
and this, from MOLLY, a day later. She first begins by addressing a request to see the Master Plan. Lo and behold: It’s suddenly unavailable!