Cities To Receive Millions For Infrastructure Projects
More than $9 million in state funding has been awarded to three western Massachusetts cities to pay for infrastructure such as new sewer and water mains and streetscape work needed to support housing and other economic development projects.
The state grants will help support an effort to repair and preserve one of the oldest public housing complexes in the nation located in the city of Holyoke, convert an old mill building in Chicopee into loft apartments, and reconfigure one of the most dangerous traffic intersections in the region: the “Six Corners” in Springfield.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who announced the grant awards in Chicopee last week, said the funding is further evidence of his administration’s commitment to partnering with local governments.
" This is the sort of thing that is part of our urban agenda," said Baker. " We look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues in local government to create new life and new opportunities across their downtowns and their communities generally."
The money comes from a program called MassWorks. Created in 2011, it combined dozens of separate grant programs that had been administered by various state agencies under one umbrella, streamlined the application process and gave cities and towns more flexibility in spending the money.
" I think MassWorks has proven to be a terrific tool to help local communities move forward on projects they might not be able to do otherwise that are really beneficial," Baker told reporters.
Holyoke received the largest grant award, $4 million, to cover the cost of putting in new streets, sidewalks, parks, and storm sewers as part of the redevelopment of Lyman Terrace, an 18-building public housing complex that dates to World War II.
The Holyoke Housing Authority and The Community Builders, a nonprofit developer, are undertaking a $30 million project to repair and preserve Lyman Terrace. Mayor Alex Morse said the MassWorks grant will cover work in public areas not being paid for by the private developer.
"This makes sure the city of Holyoke does not have to spend any local taxpayers money on this project," said Morse.
Chicopee is receiving $2 million to pay for water, sewer, and electrical work that city officials say is necessary to spur redevelopment of the West End Mill District.
Developer Herbert Berezin said he plans to spend $5-7 million to develop 80 loft apartments in a former mill building he bought earlier this year.
"People will be able to live and work in the building," said Berezin.
Berezin expects to have the apartments ready for occupancy in early 2017.
Chicopee’s director of community and economic development, Mike Vedovelli, said this could be the catalyst for more redevelopment in the mill district.
"We have the Cabotville Mills right next door, so hopefully this will be one project that turns into another," said Vedovelli.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said a $2.77 million MassWorks grant will pay to reconfigure an intersection where several streets, including Central and Hancock come together in the Maple Heights neighborhood. Studies have ranked it as a high-crash area.
"It is a difficult traffic pattern there, not only for vehicular traffic, but pedestrians," said Sarno. " We have a lot of families that live in the area."
Sarno said the traffic improvements were included in the 2011 tornado recovery master plan to spur commercial development in the neighborhood.
Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito made a series of MassWorks infrastructure grant award announcements across the state during the last week of October.
$85.6 million is being awarded through the program this year, according to the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.