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Urban renewal plan announced

Date: 9/19/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

news@thereminder.com

HOLYOKE — A plan to redevelop much of the city's urban neighborhoods was announced last week and will now seek approval from the public, the City Council and the state in order to begin the implementation process.

The Holyoke City Center Urban Revitalization would affect South Holyoke, the Churchill neighborhood, the Prospect Heights and Downtown area and The Flats.

Mayor Alex Morse explained to Reminder Publications the public will hear about the plan in a series of meetings before it goes to the City Council for approval. Once the state approves it, he said the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority would be reactivated and it could then begin acquiring properties for projects.

Morse hopes the City Council would be able to approve the plan by Nov. 20.

The public meetings will be Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at Kelly Elementary School, 216 West St., Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at Morgan Elementary School, 596 S. Bridge St., and Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. at Wistariahurst Museum, 238 Cabot St.

According to the executive summary of the plan, "The overall goal for the Holyoke City Center Urban Revitalization plan is to capitalize on the unique characteristics of Holyoke's industrial heritage and green power generation, while embracing new opportunities for job growth, population growth, and place making through new capital investments."

The plan would seek to "revitalize the Center City; increase the density and types of development (more residents, more jobs); create an active Center City with a variety of 24/7 uses (events, retail, restaurants, family destinations, etc.); preserve Holyoke's historic urban character and valuable architectural resources (blocks, streets, buildings); increase housing choices with building styles that compliment the character within each urban neighborhood (multi-family, townhouse, duplex, etc.); improve downtown circulation with walkable, safe and pedestrian-friendly streets and open spaces; and promote local utilities, green technology and the innovative sectors as economic development initiatives (Holyoke Gas & Electric's water power, renewable energy, creative jobs)."

The plan would also recommend steps such as "promote private investment and create new jobs; retain critical business — such as retail, manufacturing, commercial; attract new business — fill vacant buildings and parcels with new jobs and; support existing and key planned development projects — such as the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center."

It would also work to develop both market rate and affordable housing; rehabilitate or remove blighted housing; upgrade the public the infrastructure such as street paving, bridge replacements; promote transportation options — bicycle, pedestrian, rail, mass transit; and encourage energy efficiency in buildings.

To read the plan, go to www.holyokeredevelopment.com/the-plan and follow the link for "document downloads."