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From development projects to renovations, the city will be busy in 2008

The demise of the Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center proposal means a new effort to market the former library building. Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE This year will be a busy one for the city with a wide variety of economic development projects as well as municipal building renovations being undertaken.

Mayor Michael Bissonnette recently sat down with the The Chicopee Herald to discuss some of the more prominent projects on the list.

The development of a new senior center.

Bissonnette is trying to find a housing developer interested in working with the city on a new "senior village," which would include new and needed senior housing along with a new senior center.

A new downtown fire station.

The Cabot Street Fire Station needs to be replaced and during 2008 the site selection process will take place.

Roberts Pond

The state Department of Environmental Protection has place the renovation project on its approved funding list and would give the city about $2.4 million to remove the old dam and install a storm water management system. The project hinges, the mayor said, on having the owners of the property pay $250,000 in back taxes and transfer the property to the city.

A new school administration building.

Bissonnette said the city would have to spend between $6 and $8 million to make the present building safe and believes it can be safely occupied one more year before there is a significant threat that attic supports might give away. He is looking at different options to move the administration offices into a new home.

"Everything is on the table," he said.

The former Chicopee High School.

The proposal to put a middle school into the former high school is being re-tooled from a $36 million plan to an $8.8 million plan, which would take the minimal steps to create a new middle school in the building. By having a middle school there, the city would save $250,000 in busing expenses.

The other potential plan is to market the building to developers for housing, he added,

The FDR Museum.

Dr. Joseph Plaud, the owner of the Roosevelt collection announced last week that personal financial considerations have caused him to pull out of the proposed relocation of his museum to Chicopee. Plaud will be selling off his 10,000 item collection of Franklin Roosevelt memorabilia in auctions this spring and fall.

The city is going to pursue for other uses of the former downtown library building.

Chicopee Crossing.

Bissonnette said the Colvest Group would develop an 11-acre parcel off of Memorial Drive that would include a new hotel, a bank and two restaurants.

Across the street at the site of the former Chicopee Chevrolet, Bissonnette said the owner of the property would like a traffic light installed before the property is developed. The request has been forwarded to MassHighways since Memorial Drive is a state highway.

Center Street and auto junkyards.

Bissonnette said that since this is the part of Chicopee visible from Interstate 91 working to move one of the junkyards on Center Street is a "high priority." He said there is a retail entity interested in the site for a big box store if the junkyard can be moved.

Cabotville condos.

Bissonnette said the developer of condominiums in the Cabotville Industrial Park building was recently in the city to re-affirm his commitment to the project. The asbestos abatement plan was recently approved and the property owner is now developing a plan to ensure sufficient water pressure as well as addressing 12 code compliance alternatives for state approval.

Bissonnette said that working on these and other projects is especially important as he expects to see the city gain population up to 60,000 residents by 2010, the time of the next federal census.