Developers Tour comes to PittsfieldBy | On Sep 28, 2010
Tammy Daniels story “Developers Tour Highlights Region’s Assets” (iBerkshires, 9/22/2010) is worth the read. In a nutshell, a group of eastern MA developers and real estate professionals visited Pittsfield last week for the purpose of evaluating the region’s potential. They spent 2 hours on a bus ride from Boston from listening to Pittsfield’s Mayor Roberto make his pitch, they toured potential development sites, and they took part in a luncheon/panel discussion at the Colonial Theatre.
On the one hand, I’m thrilled to hear that organizations like the Berkshire Economic Development Council and MassDevelopment are working to bring commercial real estate developers to the region. Looking for ways to redevelop and utilize our legacy mill sites is important to our future. I was also happy to hear that the group felt we had strong regional banks, as banks are an important cog in the revitalization of any area.
On the other hand …
1) A panel member named Maury Wolfe (a Boston architect) spoke of the region’s “booming second home market” … huh? There are over 100 houses on the market in Williamstown alone. Take a drive up and down Routes 7, 41, 20, etc. The only person making money on second homes (or any homes for that matter) these days is the person who makes realtor “for sale” signs.
2) According to the article, Mr. Wolfe also said, “… you really need permanent people, permanent home owners to develop job growth.” Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? Don’t we need to first create jobs in order to attract permanent residents?
3) Another panel member, Fred Kramer (president of a Boston Design firm), said, “Flexible permitting and zoning can be a major factor in getting any project off the ground.” Well, if he’s looking for flexible permitting and zoning, he’s come to the wrong place. Over the past 50 years, we’ve created a county where our local governments make getting projects approved as difficult (or more so) than any place in the country.
4) Panel member Walter Upton (director of construction at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts) said that, “public/private partnerships, such as tax incentives, could spur private development.” In my mind, this was in conflict with another panel member, Eden Milroy (president of developer/property manager Pilot Group), who said that school improvements were critical to growth. If we create jobs with tax incentives, where do the tax revenues come from to pay for improved schools?
Trust me, I’m much more of a “light a candle” than a “curse the darkness” sort of guy. I applaud the MassDev and BEDC efforts to market our area. We need to bring jobs here to stabilize our local economy.