Brien takes over Downtown Pittsfield Inc. as general manager and will focus on filling empty storefronts

Founded in 1983, Downtown Pittsfield Inc. represents businesses, landlords, and nonprofits in the heart of Berkshire County’s largest community. This week, it announced the appointment of its new general manager: Rebecca Brien. Brien, most recently director of sales and marketing at the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsfield, attended Berkshire Community College. She has worked at county hospitality institutions like The Cranwell and Canyon Ranch. WAMC caught up with her this morning on her first day on the job.

BRIEN: Actually, I was born and raised here in Berkshire County. I grew up in Richmond, and I remember coming, like everyone else, and doing Thursday night shopping at England Brothers, you know, and beyond, our third Thursday celebrations, and to have really seen the transition now to a variety of retailers, stores, services, restaurants, all kinds of things now, it makes downtown Pittsfield a great place.

WAMC: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing downtown Pittsfield right now?

Well, I think about that a lot and, you know, even before the pandemic, it was finding retailers and stores that can be here and thrive downtown. You know, we have great programs that will help young entrepreneurs, and I think we need to fill the windows. And that will be my main focus.

There’s been a lot of talk about new downtown bike lanes, new traffic patterns. We’ve heard from business owners that they don’t like the new setup. Some citizens told us that they were frustrated by this. I also heard the city defend it and try to explain that it was trying to modernize the layout of a 21st century downtown. Any thoughts on this conversation and any thoughts on its impact on downtown businesses?

Of course. Change is always hard, especially here in the Berkshires, and I think with better collaboration and, you know, working with businesses and cities, we can really make their plans our plans and make it a success.

Now, looking to the future, what unrealized opportunities do you see for downtown Pittsfield that you would like to seize as the head of the organization?

Well, as mentioned, you know, filling our storefronts, I think, is important. I think I strike a balance between all the different types of agencies, businesses, and community here on North Street and really bring people back to the great walking, shopping, and dining that it has to offer.

There has also been a lot of conversation about people experiencing homelessness in downtown Pittsfield and the impact this is having on the downtown community and businesses. Any thoughts on this conversation and the role Downtown Pittsfield Inc. plays in this ongoing conversation?

I think Downtown Pittsfield Inc is there to support the agencies who, really, it’s their specialty to work with them, with people who may be on North Street, who may not be shopping and who are there for other reasons. And I think our role is really to support them and find ways to help these agencies, you know, figure out the best way to handle this.

So what’s on your Day One file? What kind of issues do you want to get into for Downtown Pittsfield Inc.?

It’s my first day today we’re actually joining the strategic planning meeting to look at the funds that will be coming to North Street and downtown Pittsfield and to really find out what our voices are and what our goals are and where this money will be used for the benefit of all.

Does this involve ARPA funding?

Not specifically, but I will of course work with the city for the funding they have received to ensure that all areas of the Berkshires are taken care of.

David H. Henry