The Tyler Street Lab, an outgrowth of a 2019 neighborhood pop-up initiative which was based at 730 Tyler St., has been reimagined and is poised to take up residency at a new location, 741 Tyler St., beginning this fall.
Mayor Linda Tyer said the Lab’s resurgence is a much welcome addition to the city especially as more aspects of community life continue to reopen.
“The Tyler Street Lab is based on the premise that a community becomes stronger when there is a place for residents, community members, and businesses to join together, collaborate, and thrive,” said Mayor Linda Tyer. “Now more than ever, I am excited to know that this dedicated space will once again have a place in our community, allowing residents of all ages and backgrounds to learn new skills, deepen their relationships, and build new networks across our city.”
The city will serve as the fiscal agent for the Lab, which will also be a conduit for other community programs and organizations. Thanks to a $20,000 grant from Berkshire Bank Foundation, a $15,000 earmark secured by Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and carry over funding from last year’s pop-up initiative, the Lab will enter into a two-year lease agreement with Mill Town Capital, a private investment group that provides a platform for community revitalization, said Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer.
Of Mill Town, Ruffer noted that the firm is working collaboratively to improve the Morningside neighborhood, Pittsfield and Berkshires by investing in valuable projects such as the Tyler Street Lab, building connections and empowering entrepreneurs and community organizations.
The lease will begin July 1with the Lab temporarily re-occupying 730 Tyler St. while Mill Town renovates 741 Tyler St. The Lab will move into its new space once renovations are completed.
“We are so pleased to support the expansion and continued success of the Tyler Street Lab as we prioritize fostering innovation and entrepreneurship especially for underrepresented populations,” said Lori Gazzillo Kiely, director of Berkshire Bank Foundation. “We applaud the passion and drive of the collaborators, as well as the City of Pittsfield for its support, and look forward to the Lab’s evolution.”
Rep. Farley-Bouvier noted the Lab as a key resource in building and strengthening community empowerment.
“The Tyler Street Lab has proven its effectiveness in providing space for neighborhood gathering, shared learning and advocacy for services. It is powered by members of the neighborhood with programing being built by them and for them. As we move further into reopening these neighborhood based services are all the more important,” said Rep. Farley-Bouvier.
At this time, two collaborators have committed to being a part of the Lab, and are working in conjunction with the city, to jointly manage the Lab for the next two years. These include The Chill Zone and The Gaming Lounge.
The Chill Zone, launched by Shirley Edgerton and New Global Ministries’ Pastor Akilah Edgerton and Jerome Edgerton Jr., serves youth 8-18 years old. The program provides an array of activities including homework help, computer play, field trips to cultural sites throughout the Berkshires and hosts conversations to address social concerns and personal development.
The Gaming Lounge, launched by Stephanie Strout Hockett, provides a gaming club for players who are on the Autism Spectrum, suffer from social anxiety, and cognitive disabilities and any others interested in gaming. Since its inception, the Lounge has attracted well-known gamers including Greg Juby, a developer from Microsoft, and two of the top 10 players in the world at the game “Super Smash Brother.”
To date, the Lounge has served 1,280 gamers, 64 one-on-one gaming therapy sessions, sponsored gaming tournaments, and provides services and funds to under-resourced families.