Pittsfield- On Friday, February 15th, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield) hosted Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Undersecretary Tina Brooks in Berkshire County, enabling her to attend several meetings and tour three sites that exposed many urgent housing and community development needs of the region.
“My mission is to make sure the needs and concerns of my district are accurately reflected and understood on Beacon Hill,” said Downing. “One of the most effective ways to accomplish that is to invite Administration officials to experience firsthand Berkshire County’s unique set of challenges and opportunities.”
During her daylong tour in the Berkshires, Undersecretary Brooks met with many local leaders, including North Adams Mayor John Barrett III and Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, Nathaniel Karns, Executive Director of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, and various municipal officials from representing Dalton, Lee, Lenox, Great Barrington, Sheffield and Stockbridge.
“My tour with Senator Downing of Pittsfield, North Adams and Lenox was very interesting, informative and productive,” said DHCD Undersecretary Tina Brooks. “There is great potential for housing and community development projects in these and other communities in Berkshire County which will help further the Patrick Administration’s agenda of creating new economic opportunities to benefit residents of all income levels in the Commonwealth.”
Senator Downing hoped to impress upon Undersecretary Brooks the range of services and support needed to strengthen Berkshire communities. From the rehabilitation of the H.W. Clark Biscuit building in North Adams from a dilapidated, abandoned mill to a newly renovated housing complex to the “New Amsterdam Project” in downtown Pittsfield designed to incorporate new structures with renovated buildings, one central goal is in play - spurring community development and creating more affordable housing opportunities for working class families.
“With a very down to earth manner, Undersecretary Brooks demonstrated her comprehensive understanding of housing and community development and the interrelationship of our work in these areas with the chronic urban challenges of homelessness and veteran services,” said Mayor Ruberto. “She was very interested in helping us and equally as important, quickly grasped the differences between Pittsfield’s needs and communities in the eastern part of the Commonwealth.”
While in Pittsfield, Undersecretary Brooks toured the proposed veterans housing site at United Veterans of America on West Housatonic Street and participated in a roundtable discussion with Ruberto, Karns, Pittsfield’s Economic Development Director Deanna Ruffer, and representatives of Berkshire Regional Housing Authority, Berkshire Housing and the Commission to End Chronic Homelessness in Berkshire County.
At the Curtis Hotel in Lenox, Brooks toured the public housing facilities run by the Lenox Housing Authority and attended a forum for South County community leaders discussing unique issues they face, including a depleted housing supply and the lack of technical support for community planning and grant writing assistance. Several projects were highlighted including the redevelopment of the New England Log Home 8-acre site in Great Barrington and proposals for the reuse of the recently evacuated Searles and Bryant school buildings also in Great Barrington.
Undersecretary Brooks was presented with a comprehensive view of Berkshire County’s unique housing and community development needs. Underscoring DHCD’s mission, Brooks pledged the Department’s support in strengthening cities and towns of all sizes to develop in smart and sustainable ways. To learn more about DHCD’s mission or to access grant support through online services, please visit: www.mass.gov/dhcd.
Senator Downing and DHCD Undersecretary Brooks review development plans for H. W. Clark Biscuit building renovation in North Adams, MA.