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Developers turn out to tour city properties

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE Kate Brown of the Planning Department said the response to the Request for Proposals from potential developers for three city properties has been good. More than a dozen developers have asked for the information packets for the properties.

Developers have until June 2 to get their proposals to her office for review.

On May 18 Brown conducted walk-throughs at The Little Red School House, Chapin School and the former library so interested parties could assess the conditions of each building. She said The Little Red School House received the most interest. She offered the reason that because it has been closed since 2000 it is not familiar as the other two buildings.

She said that of the three properties she thought the Chapin School was the most attractive to developers as it is "a wonderful building in good condition." Mayor Michael Bissonnette has stated he thought the school could be converted into condominiums.

People gathered at The Little Red School House before the designated time of 9 a.m. to walk through the building. Brown explained that Holyoke Chicopee Springfield Head Start had last used the 1846 building as a day care center.

There was an exterior wall with some bowing and Brown said the city was not sure of the structural integrity of the building because an engineering study has not been done on it.

Inside the two-story building, people picked their way over debris left by the last tenant and fallen ceiling panels. Some of the damage was due to the fact the building hadn't been heated since 2000, Brown explained.

One of those taking a look was Alfred McKinstry, who attended first and second grade at the building in 1935 and 1936. He recalled there were 25 to 30 students at the school and how the 1936 flood that devastated the Connecticut River Valley closed the school.

Looking around the first floor where the first grade used to be, McKinstry said, "I'd hate to see it torn down because of its historic significance."

Brown said she would be happy to arrange tours of any of the buildings before the June 2 deadline. After the deadline, Bissonnette will form a review committee to go over the proposals.

Brown said that if the committee doesn't believe the right projects have been offered, then the process will start over.

"It's about the best project, the best project for the community," she said.