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Urban renewal plan for south Holyoke moves forward

Date: 5/5/2009

By Ashlene Ferris

Staff Intern

HOLYOKE -- Members of the community are working toward a fresh start and a new reputation with the Urban Renewal Plan.

The city is undertaking a comprehensive planning study for the rehabilitation of the Flats, Churchill, South Holyoke, Prospect Heights and downtown neighborhoods.

Aaron Vega, a Holyoke native, said the city needs more open space and clean air.

"We need to have a vision and a plan," he explained. "We need to get everyone at the same table and on the same page."

The goal of this study is to create vibrant, diverse and safe neighborhoods in downtown Holyoke where all residents can live, work and play. Natives are not only ready for a change but excited to dismiss the stigma of their city.

Sgt. Dan Menard of the Holyoke Police Department and a neighborhood watch coordinator said he is sick of the city's negative reputation.

"I'm tired of people judging Holyoke when the only part of Holyoke they know is the mall," he said. "There are so many beautiful buildings, houses and parks here that people don't know about."

The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority (HRA) was established last year to aid in the successful rehabilitation of the downtown area. The HRA reviewed the project area over the last year and met with developers and non-profits to formulate a course of action.

Nancy Howard, a resident of Holyoke and a landscape designer said her vision for the future of the city involves keeping its character alive.

"We shouldn't be tearing down buildings that are pieces of 19th century architecture," she explained. "It cost a lot of money to tear buildings down and that money should be an incentive for preserving buildings instead of tearing them down."

Holyoke received a $75,000 grant to fund the Visioning portion of the Urban Renewal Plan for the city's four Lower Census Tracts. The vision, created through community input, will be completed by the end of the summer; it will serve as framework for the creation of the more formal Urban Renewal Plan.

All residents are encouraged to attend the public meetings to share their visions and voice their input on the future of Holyoke.

For more information, contact the Office of Planning and Development at 322-5575.