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Morse hopes others will follow his path downtown

Date: 4/11/2012

April 11, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE —Mayor Alex Morse is hoping people will follow his example and seek opportnities to live in downtown Holyoke.

Morse showed members of the press his new apartment in the Open Square complex last week.

The renovated loft space had originally been part of the factory building's boiler area, according to Open Square owner and architect John Aubin.

Now the space features a high ceiling, exposed brick and beams, a modern kitchen and an open floor plan.

Morse moved in four weeks ago and said that refurbished spaces such as this one are vital to the redevelopment of the city.

"This is Holyoke's future," he said to Reminder Publications. "Our success depends upon converting old factory buildings."

Morse sees downtown living spaces as attractive to college students, recent college graduates and empty-nesters. According to information released by the U.S. Census on March 26, urban areas are growing, while suburbans communities are seeing a population decline.

Morse noted that he can now walk to work at City Hall and across the street from him are artist studios at the Canal Gallery with numerous events. Open Square is within the Innovation District and Morse believes that with the completion of the Massachusetts Green High Speed Computing Center, the demand for downtown housing will grow.

Morse explained there is a push on the state level for a "Gateway City" such as Holyoke to develop more market housing to rebuild its middle class.

Aubin's goal with Open Square is to create a mixed-use complex where people could live and work. He said that while Morse's apartment is the first housing unit, others are being planned. He has two housing projects in the planning stages: 24 condominiums and 37 rental units. All of the units would be market-rate.

He said, "The timing is now right for that [the housing projects] to come together."

Aubin said that he has been receiving inquires for a while from people who are interested in living downtown. Besides the impact of the computing center, Aubin believes the addition of a downtown Amtrak stop in Holyoke will also add to the momentum.

For Holyoke's youthful mayor, this is his first apartment on his own and he said with a smile he is enjoying a roommate-free lifestyle.

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