South Holyoke Homes

The Holyoke Housing Authority (HHA) has been awarded a $2 million grant from the Massachusetts Community Scale Housing Initiative (CSHI) for Phase I of South Holyoke Homes. The 12-unit project has also received $550,000 in HOME funds from the City of Holyoke, $840,000 in permanent financing from PeoplesBank, and $908,759 in developer equity. Additionally, $221,000 of an over $6 million 2019 MassWorks grant to support South Holyoke infrastructure and streetscape improvements will be used for Phase 1. South Holyoke Homes is a partnership between the HHA and the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority to construct affordable rental and homeownership housing centered around Carlos Vega Park in South Holyoke and will be constructed in five phases. A groundbreaking will take place soon and construction will start this summer.

CSHI is a joint initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development and MassHousing that provides funding to produce smaller scale affordable housing developments in communities with populations fewer than 200,000. $7.02 million has been granted in this round of funding.

Dwight Street Community Garden

On Saturday, June 26th, Neighbor to Neighbor held a Garden Opening party at the newly constructed community garden at the corner of Dwight and Pine Street. The event was well attended by community members from the neighborhood, who took the opportunity to plant produce in the new garden. The Community Garden was constructed by the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority utilizing a City of Holyoke Community Development Block Grant. Additional assistance came from Valley Opportunity Council that had the fence installed, the Holyoke Water Works that donated time to install the water service, and the Center for Design Engagement that designed the garden. The project included constructing perimeter fencing, 12 raised planting beds, and installing water service.

The Community Garden will provide a service to the surrounding neighborhood and complement ongoing investment in the surrounding Dwight Street corridor. The garden is located in Area One of the Holyoke Urban Renewal Area, which is the Dwight Street Gateway and serves as a western gateway into the downtown area. In recent years the area has seen other improvements such as new sidewalks and installation of sustainable plant beds.

For more information about programing at the community garden contact Terry Gibson at Neighbor to Neighbor, tgibsonpgh@gmail.com or 413-650-2634.

El Paraiso Colombiano Restaurant

The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority recently awarded a Center City Liquor License to El Paraiso Colombiano Restaurant. A grand opening was held on April 2, 2021 for the new establishment at 351 High Street. El Paraiso Colombiano is a family friendly restaurant that offers Colombian cuisine. Decorated with Colombian décor, customers can watch sporting events on several TVs while they enjoy popular Colombian dishes such as Bandeja Paisa or a Picada. Over $50,000 has been invested in the business including upgrading the kitchen and dining room.

The Center City Liquor License program was established to help create an active Center City with a variety of 24/7 uses, including restaurant establishments. The program makes 13 additional liquor licenses available to qualifying restaurants that are located in Center City Holyoke. Additional licenses are available. Click here  for more information on the program.

Valley Flyer Train Service

After reduced service since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Valley Flyer train service will be restored to full service starting July 26th. The Valley Flyer makes stops in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield and connects with Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor at New Haven. Tickets are now available and can be purchased on Amtrak.com, the Amtrak app, Amtrak ticket desks and kiosks, and through 1-800-USA-RAIL. On July 19th, Amtrak is also restoring its Vermonter train service along this rail corridor, which connects St. Albans, Vermont to Washington, D.C.

Main Street – Springdale Corridor Feasibility Study

The Main Street-Springdale Corridor Project (formerly announced as the CT River Pathway) is a feasibility study produced by Nitsch Engineering to provide a safe and innovative shared-use path for residents and visitors by connecting Route 5 to Springdale Park. The project was made possible by a MassTrails Grant from the Department of Recreation and Conservation. Along this corridor there are a number of destinations including a unique municipal boathouse facility operated by Holyoke Rows; a non-profit serving the community access to physical activities in the CT river, an urban farm, two public schools; Holyoke High South/Dean Campus and Holyoke STEM Academy which both use playing fields located on the corridor. This project compliments the ongoing plan for rehabilitation of Route 5 from MassDOT, project number 604209, by expanding on the shared-use pathway planned on the eastern side of Main Street. This project will be the fundamental foundation for a network of trails that will enhance the experiences and destinations for all, including access to recreational spaces and ongoing place-making efforts on Main Street. Click here for the study executive summary and click here for the full feasibility study.

Holyoke Tourism

In 2018, the City of Holyoke, through the Office of Planning and Economic Development (OPED) was awarded a $100,000 Community Mitigation Fund grant from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to assist tourism efforts in Holyoke. A portion of the funds paid for a Holyoke Tourism Plan. The Plan provides ten recommendations that are within three broad strategic areas: Creating a positive public perception of Holyoke; Effective and coordinated strategic marketing; and A signature destination. OPED has taken the lead on moving forward with the first action item of the Plan, which is to establish a Tourism Advisory Committee. To start the process of forming the Committee, a meeting of Holyoke Tourism Stakeholders was convened in April. Stakeholders included those who contributed to the Plan and individuals and organizations that represent key tourism industries Once the Committee is officially established, it will be tasked with implementing the deliverables found in the Tourism Plan.

Get Ready Holyoke! Climate Preparedness 2050

The City of Holyoke is pleased to share the final product of the 2021 Harvard Option Design Studio’s Get Ready Holyoke! Climate Preparedness 2050 project. Students and faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Design created Land Use and Public Realm Master Plans for Holyoke that incorporate climate resiliency and community development objectives. The goal was to create “a roadmap or vision for landscape and planning design that considered urban heat island mitigation, stormwater management, flood resilience, land-uses, economic and community development, transport, and public open space”.

The document also features park design concepts for sites in Holyoke’s historic canal district, each completed by individual students. Some of these, like “River Connect” and “Plaza de los Kioskos” look at expanding riverfront access options and pedestrian connectivity, while others like “Coalescing City” and “Aquaponic Assemblage” explore opportunities for mixed-use development.

The full report, with master plans and student park designs, can be accessed online by clicking here.

This project was made possible by a Planning Assistance Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Revival of Formerly Owned City Owned Properties Continues

On occasion, the City of Holyoke takes ownership of property typically due to the non-payment of taxes or because of abandonment.  It is in no one’s interest for this to occur but when it does the City works diligently to turn the situation positive by selling the property. When considering a sale, the City considers the qualifications of the buyer, the type of development, the positive impact for the neighborhood and a fair monetary offer. 

Over the last year, the City and the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority sold fifteen properties.  The properties sold include residential homes, vacant lots to abutters, the former Lynch School and the sale of land to the Holyoke Housing Authority for the South Holyoke Homes development. Several more property sales are in process including 216 Appleton Street and the former Geriatric Authority property at 45 Lower Westfield Road.

Click here to see currently listed properties for sale on the City’s Purchasing Department webpage. Additional development opportunities can be found by clicking here.

For more information or to inquire about a specific property call the Office of Planning and Economic Development at (413) 322-5655.

Rapid Recovery Plan Update

On June 10th, Rapid Recovery Plan program consultant, Dr. Lomax Campbell, made a presentation on Phase I of the program. The presentation included information on progress made to date, what has been learned, and where the program is going. Click here to access the PowerPoint presentation and click here to view the presentation. Phase II has now begun and will include meeting with stakeholders to identify actionable projects to help with COVID-19 recovery efforts.

The Rapid Recovery Plan Program is intended to provide every municipality in Massachusetts the opportunity to develop actionable, project-based recovery plans tailored to the unique economic challenges and COVID-19 related impacts to downtowns, town centers, and commercial areas across the commonwealth. The target area of the Holyoke Plan is the Center City Neighborhoods of Downtown, Churchill, South Holyoke, and the Flats.

Redevelopment of the Farr Alpaca Mill

The Holyoke Planning Board recently gave site plan approval to Winn Development for their plan to construct 88 residential units in the former Farr Alpaca Mill complex at 216 Appleton Street. The project is a partnership between Winn and the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority. Winn has a stellar reputation in the conversion of historic properties into modern housing and will invest $35 million to construct 76 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom apartments. The project is utilizing federal and state historic tax credits along with housing tax credits. Next to the Holyoke Police Station and across the street from Holyoke Heritage State Park, this project will compliment other redevelopment projects in the area including the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center and HCC Culinary Arts Institute. Click here for additional news coverage.

Holyoke Farmer’s Market Kicks Off New Season

On Saturday May 22nd, the Holyoke Farmer’s Market kicked off its new five-month season at its new location on Race Street. Along with fresh produce and meat from throughout the Pioneer Valley, the Market also includes live music, non-food vendors, and food trucks. The Farmer’s Market is a collaboration of the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and the Holyoke Food and Equity Collective. The goal is to increase access to food in Holyoke. The Market is located on Race Street, with the entrance at the corner of Appleton Street and is open every Saturday from 11am to 3pm until October 16th.  

For additional news coverage of the Farmer’s Market, click on the following links.

Restaurant Listening Session

On May 25th, Acting Mayor Terry Murphy held a Restaurant Listening Session in Holyoke City Hall Ballroom. He was joined by Aaron Vega, Director of the Office of Planning & Economic Development and Alicia Zoeller, Community Development Director. Restaurant industry owners and managers gathered at City Hall and online to share their concerns, challenges, ideas, and suggestions with the city officials. They also learned about opportunities in the restaurant industry in Holyoke.

Click here to watch the Restaurant Listening Session.

GTI Plans Expansion in Holyoke

Marijuana grower and retailer, Green Thumb Industries (GTI) is planning an expansion in Holyoke. GTI was the first cannabis company to start operating in Holyoke in 2018 at 28 Appleton Street. They have since outgrown that space and are now planning on purchasing the former Hampden Papers Mill at 100 Water Street to expand their growing and processing area, add an employee cafeteria and on-site parking. In addition to the 110 employees currently at GTI, they plan on hiring an additional 100 to 130 people. Click here to read more.

Rapid Recovery Plan – Phase One Presentation

The Office of Planning & Economic Development has been engaged with Third Eye Network on the Massachusetts Rapid Recovery Plan Program. The program is intended to provide every municipality in Massachusetts the opportunity to develop actionable, project-based recovery plans tailored to the unique economic challenges and COVID-19 related impacts to downtowns, town centers, and commercial areas across the commonwealth. The target area of the Holyoke Plan is the Center City Neighborhoods of Downtown, Churchill, South Holyoke, and the Flats.
 
On Thursday, June 10th at 3PM, program consultant, Dr. Lomax Campbell, will make a presentation on the progress made to date, what has been learned, and where the program is going. Topics will include findings from phase one activities: community demographics and stewards, COVID-impact on economic activity within the study area, and conditions of the study area. The presentation will be made via Zoom. Click here to register for the event.

EforAll Holyoke Honored with BusinessWest Difference Maker Award

Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Holyoke has been honored with a BusinessWest Difference Maker Award for their work to make sure entrepreneurs don’t have to go it alone when starting their new business. EforAll Holyoke programs are designed to educate participants on the many aspects of starting and operating a business from writing and updating a business plan to working with the media, while also connecting them with mentors who can impart their wisdom and first-hand experiences. They conduct accelerator programs in both English and Spanish (EsparaTodos), and graduates four cohorts of entrepreneurs each year, two in the spring and two in the fall. Click Here to read more about EforAll Holyoke’s important work in BusinessWest.

El Corazón/Heart of Holyoke: Public Art Walking Tours

On Saturday, April 24th and Sunday April 25th, walking tours were held along Main Street of the newly installed large-scale artistic banners, storefront installations, and a public art mural. El Corazón reflects the vital culture of the surrounding neighborhoods and catalyzes creative and economic opportunity through a series of public art projects along Main Street. The project featuring the artworks of:

  • Frankie Borrero
  • Emma Mesa-Meléndez
  • C. Yolanda González
  • Michelle Falcón Fontánez
  • DreamClub Collective
  • Chelvanaya Gabriel
  • Shey Rivera Ríos
  • Madeline Medina
  • Yadilette Rivera-Colón

 Click Here to access the artist bios and a walking tour brochure.

 

Aaron Vega Joins Office of Planning & Economic Development

The Office of Planning and Economic Development welcomes Aaron Vega as its new Director. Aaron officially started in his new position on January 25th, and takes over for longtime Director Marcos Marrero, who left the post to spend more time with his wife and young kids.

Aaron brings great experience and skills to the job. He served four terms as Holyoke’s State Representative and before that, two terms as an at-large city councilor. At the Statehouse he worked hand-in-hand with the City Administration on legislative priorities that were included in two landmark Economic Development bills, land transactions, and innovative programming such as the Holyoke-specific liquor license program, and was a member of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Cannabis. While serving on the city council he Chaired the Redevelopment Committee and worked to keep his commitment to improve the quality of life for all Holyoke residents by strengthening ordinances while giving city departments and citizens the tools they need to address the many issues facing Holyoke. In his new role, Aaron looks forward to continuing the momentum of redevelopment that the City has seen in recent years, particularly with the Center City Urban Renewal Plan and the growing cannabis industry.

Holyoke Waves Some License Fees

As part of an effort to help businesses in Holyoke cope with the ongoing restrictions due to the pandemic, the City of Holyoke’s License Board, with the encouragement of Mayor Morse, has waived the following license fees for the 2021 season:

  • Restaurant All Alcohol & Wine/Malt
  • Hotel/Innkeeper All Alcohol & Wine/Malt
  • Club All Alcohol
  • Veteran’s Club All Alcohol
  • Common Victualer
  • Entertainment
  • Automatic Amusement Devices

Any business seeking to renew these licenses for the 2021 season will not have to submit a license fee. For businesses that have already submitted payment for these fees, the City will return those payments to the business. Waiving fess is just one small effort to help local businesses. Utilizing federal Community Development Block grants, the City in partnership with the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, has also established a small business grant program to assist local businesses during these uncertain times.

Trulieve Investing in Holyoke

In summer 2019, Trulieve Cannabis Corp. purchased the historic Hadley Company Mill at 56 North Canal Street and 7 North Bridge Street for $3.2 million. They are now in the process of renovating 126,000 square feet of space into growing, processing, testing and retail operations. They plan to create 200 to 300 jobs and will be hiring for those positions in the coming months. Visit their careers page to view current job opportunities. Headquartered in Florida, Trulieve has 71 stores and has been actively expanding into California, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Along with the growing and packaging operations in Holyoke, they plan for medical and recreational marijuana shops in Holyoke, Northampton and Cambridge.

Hazen Paper Company Wins Award

Hazen Paper Company of Holyoke has been award the Next Century Award by Associated Industries of Massachusetts. The award honors employers, community organizations and individuals who have made unique contributions to the Massachusetts economy and the well-being of the people who live here.
 
Founded in 1925, Hazen Paper specializes in custom holographic originations, film, foil, and paper laminations, specialty and gravure coatings, and rotary embossing. Hazen’s products are used in health and beauty packaging, entertainment and media packaging, golf ball packaging, bookbinding, lottery scratch tickets, merchandise tags, product labels, photo mounting, ticketing applications, and the covers of 17 Super Bowl programs. The company has trained more than 50 apprentices in the last 10 years through its apprentice program and offers an internship program to engineering students from Western New England University. They have been proactive in helping to build the future workforce via the World Is Our Classroom program, whereby every fifth grader in Holyoke public schools visits Hazen for a full day of teaching and tours. Hazen became one of the first manufacturing companies in the state to pivot to making hand sanitizer by partnered with a distillery for bottling and labeling and then gave the product away to people who needed it.
 
We congratulate Hazen Paper Company for being awarded the Next Century Award, which is well deserved. Click here for more information.

El Corazón/Heart of Holyoke Placemaking Project Second Phase Artist Selection & Installations

El Corazón /Heart of Holyoke is an exciting placemaking project celebrating the Puerto Rican Cultural Area of Holyoke. The project supports the creation of a vibrant Main Street with colorful banners, large-scale art works, dynamic lighting, beautiful murals, food trucks and art festivals; a Main Street that reflects the vital culture of the surrounding neighborhoods; a Main Street that supports emerging businesses with safe and walkable streets.
 
Project artists have been selected, and during Spring 2021, the project will move forward with 3D art installations in select storefronts, large-scale photos, and panel murals. All selected artists will be working closely through mentorship by Shey Rivera Ríos (pronouns: they/them), an interdisciplinary artist, cultural strategist, and arts administrator based in Providence, RI. Shey is also serving as a mentor to local artists and with the help of three local artists: Michelle Falcón Fontánez, The Dream Club Collective and Jason Montgomery, provide capacity building through public workshops. The art installations are expected to be complete by this summer. Click here to learn more about the projects and the artists involved.

Main Street Corridor Historic Survey Complete

The Office of Planning & Economic Development and the Holyoke Historical Commission have completed a project that undertook an intensive-level neighborhood survey of cultural and architectural resources along the Main Street Corridor in the Flats and South Holyoke neighborhoods. The documentation will help with ongoing plans to revitalize the neighborhood by better understanding the historic resources that can be reused and renovated for modern uses.  The project was completed by preservation consultants Zachary Violette and John Clemson. The project was funded through a Survey and Planning grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission and a City of Holyoke Community Development Block Grant. The project surveyed 159 buildings and resulted in the production of seven Area forms (A-Forms) and 90 individual Building forms (B-Forms). The target area included residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings from the mid-nineteenth century to the early-twentieth century. The survey recommends that 2 historic districts and 27 individual properties may be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Click here to view the final report and access the historic survey forms. Survey forms for individual properties are accessible within the report by clicking on hyperlinks found in the report’s Appendix 1.

As a continuation of this project the City is now moving forward with another survey project called the Canal System Industrial Area, which will focus on the historic mill buildings along the canals. Once complete, the goal is to have updated historic survey documents for all the historic buildings in the Flats and South Holyoke.

 

Holyoke Number One in Completed Cannabis Applications

According to a Boston Business Journal analysis of recreational marijuana licenses through July 9, the city of Holyoke leads all others with 40 completed applications to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, more than any other municipality in the Commonwealth and representing 5% of the 841 total licenses received to date. This is no coincidence, as the city has fully embraced the cannabis trade from the start. With city residents voting affirmatively 57% in favor of cannabis, the Mayor’s backing, and the City Council approving a streamlined system of approving host community agreements with a standard template that can be approved in a day, and approving zoning laws to become more marijuana-friendly, Holyoke is starting to see investments from the cannabis industry. With some of the cheapest electrical rates and available industrial space, Holyoke is an attractive location for companies looking to locate large cultivation or manufacturing plants in the city.

In 2019, Massachusetts saw 15% job growth in the legal cannabis industry and $404 million in legal cannabis sales. To encourage this job growth, Holyoke Community College (HCC) and the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) created the Cannabis Education Center last fall, to provide education, training, and other business resources to individuals in the region who want to work in the cannabis industry. The industry is also producing opportunities for other businesses that are needed to support the growing industry such as the building trades and professional services.

There is a very positive outlook for Holyoke as more cannabis businesses open their doors and invest in the city. For additional news articles related to the growing cannabis industry in Western Massachusetts, click on the following links:

Downtown Street Improvements Nearing Completion

The reconstruction of Dwight, Front, and Heritage Streets is nearing completion. The $3.6 million project, which was funded through a mix of state and federal funding sources , started back in June 2019. The projected included updating utilities, new sidewalks, landscaping, crosswalk bump-outs to improve pedestrian safety, and new pull in parking along Front Street. Heritage Street has also been converted to one-way travel from Appleton to Dwight Street.

Canal Walk Roll & Stroll

The Race Street Canal Walk has been extended into a pedestrian-friendly walk for the fall season, named “Canal Walk Roll & Stroll”. The project is an initiative of the City of Holyoke and supported by the Solomon Foundation, and is a collaborative civic project managed by OneHolyoke Community Development Corporation. The goal of the project is to make the Race Street canal walk the biking, walking, and leaf-peeping destination in downtown Holyoke and increase offerings in the City for residents and stakeholders to have safely distanced recreation opportunities during the pandemic. The transformation includes temporarily narrowing the road to single-car use so it will be a safer and relaxed site for food trucks and other vendors.
 
Currently there is a Story Walk installed at the canal walk during the month of October, which is an alternative way to read a children’s book. The pages are posted outdoors for families to read them as they walk, and the book featured is Graeme Base’s “Animalia”.

Aegis Energy Completes Expansion at Former Parsons Paper Site

Aegis Energy, EDF Group, LLC recently completed the renovation of its new Holyoke headquarters at 84 Sargeant Street.  In 2016 Aegis partnered with the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to rehabilitate and develop the site.  Aegis first expressed interest in the property to the HRA at an October, 2014 meeting.  At that meeting, Lee Vardakas, owner of Aegis, explained that acquiring the property would allow for the company’s expansion from its existing 55 Jackson Street location.  Aegis, which makes, sells, services and finances combined heat and power engines, was founded in 1985 and located to Holyoke in 2005. 

84 Sargeant Street is a 4.6 acre site situated between two canals and is one of the ten areas designated for redevelopment in the HRA’s Urban Renewal Plan.  The site was first developed in the late 1800’s and was known as Parsons Paper Mill until the facility closed in 2004.  In 2008, a fire significantly destroyed a majority of the abandoned building’s structures, and the City officially took ownership of the property in 2012.  It has taken over a decade to clean up and remediate the site for redevelopment. In 2015, the HRA began the complex effort to demolish and remediate this abandoned brownfield. Over 5,400 tons of building debris comingled with asbestos was removed from the site. At least nine organizations were involved in the project including the Holyoke Gas & Electric, MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts DEP.

After the site was cleaned, Aegis began its own complicated efforts to take the last standing remnant of the Parsons Paper Company known as Building No. 18 (originally built circa 1915) and transform it into a modern 40,000 square foot production facility and company headquarters.  In addition to the new facility, Aegis constructed a solar field on the remainder of the site.  This massive undertaking had many challenges but the company can be proud and the city can be thankful for the investment, the building transformation and the preservation of an important part of Holyoke’s industrial heritage.

Avalon Lounge & Game Café

The HRA recently awarded a Center City Liquor License to Avalon Lounge & Game Café for their restaurant at The Wauregan, 286 Dwight Street. Avalon was founded in 2019 and is a restaurant, bar, and game event space that features board games, role-playing games and books, as well as card games. At the May 20th HRA meeting to consider the license, Melissa Lewis-Gentry and Neal Robinson of Avalon described the unique space and creative programming planned for the business.  The HRA Board also heard about the significant investments made by the company as well as other nearby developments that are invigorating this prime canal area location.   The Center City Liquor License program was established to help create an active Center City with a variety of 24/7 uses, including restaurant establishments. The program makes additional liquor licenses available to qualifying restaurants that are located in Center City Holyoke. Click here to read more about Avalon Lounge & Game Café.and we encourage everyone to check out this great space along the CanalWalk to enjoy the great menu and other offerings.  

MassWorks Grant for South Holyoke

The City of Holyoke has secured a $6.56 million MassWorks Infrastructure Program grant for streetscape improvements in the area around Carlos Vega Park in South Holyoke. The grant will fund a new traffic configuration, storm water bump-out planters with new trees, new curbing and sidewalks, landscaping, street lighting, bike lanes and pedestrian connections, improved alleyways and a new 18,950 square-foot green space.
 
The project will aid in the South Holyoke Homes development being led by the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority and the Holyoke Housing Authority. South Holyoke Homes is a residential development with an emphasis on affordable home ownership. Click here for additional information.