Berkshire Place

The pristine beauty of the Berkshire Mountain region in western Massachusetts has long served as inspiration for story and song. And like so many New England villages, the town of Pittsfield features historic architecture that goes back centuries.

So when the designers of the recently unveiled Berkshire Place went to work creating a new skilled nursing facility in the center of town, they vowed to erect a building that would fit well within the landscape that the locals treasure.

Just a month after the ribbon cutting on the new 44,000-sq. ft. Berkshire Place in Pittsfield, Executive Director Edward Forfa was satisfied that the construction team had delivered on that promise.

“Everyone had a vested interest in making sure this project would complement the downtown, serve as an asset to the community and provide local seniors with the best services possible,” he says. “We took a proactive approach, conducted a methodical search within the downtown area, laid the groundwork and fit every piece in place within a year. We really had all the stars aligned.”

The new structure replaces a century-old building operated by the non-profit Berkshire Place organization, which was founded in 1888. It took some serious searching to find a suitable location within the city limits, but the 3.5-acre parcel where the new building stands turned out to be an opportune site, Forfa says.

Even so, there were conditions the new building had to meet in order to comply with village and zoning ordinances. As a result, the building is contoured to an upward slope, with the ground floor built into the grade and with the second and third floors above the grade.

MassDevelopment issued a tax-exempt bond for Berkshire Retirement Home Inc., which operates Berkshire Place. With 54 beds, the new three-story skilled nursing facility has already reached full occupancy. The second and third floors are dedicated to resident living space, with all private rooms and private baths. The ground floor features a rehab gym, salon, spa, chapel and conference room. 

Each floor is broken into room groups of 13 and 14, nested together without a long corridor to walk.

The rehab gym is a new component for the organization, and 13 beds have been designated for post-surgical patients. Another 14 beds are dedicated to memory support while the remaining 27 are for long-term and palliative care.

Although it has a modern design, the new Berkshire Place fits in with the neighborhood, Forfa says.

“It has a New England look to it,” he says. “There are plenty of windows and the roof lines are consistent with surrounding buildings.”

The interior is aimed to reduce the feel of a traditional nursing home, says architect Patrick Mixdorf, of project designers EGA Architects. The aesthetic appeal includes four fireplaces on each floor, a den and living room on each side and good views of the surrounding mountains.

Residents also will enjoy the outdoors in a secured garden area, which can be accessed from both the living and dining areas. 

Lessons learned

– “Contouring” a building to the natural slope provides better visibility and property utilization.

– Providing multiple kitchens can reduce long walks for residents and staff.

– Redeveloping a multi-acre parcel in a downtown area takes complex coordination.