DHCD Approves Economic Development Initiatives in Center City

At a press conference at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, Deputy Undersecretary, Arthur Jemison of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and Mayor Alex B. Morse announced the launch of the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority’s (HRA) urban renewal plan entitled, “Connect. Construct. Create. – A Plan for the Revitalization of Center City Holyoke” and Holyoke’s Center City Housing Development Incentive Program (CCHIP). These initiatives recently received approval from the State, officially enabling the programs. Mr. Jemison, Mayor Morse, Marcos Marrero, Director of the Holyoke Office of Planning & Economic Development, and Jacqueline Watson, Chairperson of the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority addressed other local and state officials and members of the community.

Based on the Center City Vision Plan, the “Connect. Construct. Create” plan establishes the actions that the HRA will undertake within the Center City to promote a vibrant, diverse and economically sustainable Holyoke. The plan identifies specific actions to stimulate private investment and development of diverse commercial, residential and industrial areas that already exist in the Downtown, the Flats, South Holyoke and Churchill neighborhoods, which are the geographic focus of the plan. The actions focus on ‘connecting’ people and places, ‘constructing’ infrastructure, and ‘creating’ a more vibrant and prosperous Center City.

Ten project areas are identified within the plan. The actions within each project area come in various forms and include: key parcel acquisitions that result in rehabilitation, demolition or parcel aggregation to form a larger property more marketable for development, public infrastructure upgrades, streetscape and traffic enhancements, investments in public/open spaces and partnerships with existing organizations, businesses or others to assist in on-going or future redevelopment projects. “After years of hard work planning and gathering community input, we are excited to have the plan approved by the State and look forward to working with the City Council and others on implementation”, stated Jacqueline Watson, Chair of the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority.

The approval of the Center City Housing Incentive Program (CCHIP) allows Holyoke to participate in the Commonwealth’s newly enacted Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) for Gateway Cities. Under this program the City and State can offer tax credits to developers looking to construct new market-rate units within the defined area, which mirrors the boundaries of the Urban Renewal Plan. By incentivizing these types of investments, the program aims to increase residential growth, expand diversity of housing stock, support economic development, and promote neighborhood stabilization in the Center City.

The incentive comes with a local and state benefit. The local option allows developers to incrementally abate local real estate taxes on any added value due to the investment made in market-rate units. The CCHIP was approved to give applicants within the first five years of the program, 100% exemption on added real estate value for at least ten years. Projects that utilize the program after the first five years of its existence will be provided local tax exemptions at the discretion of the Mayor and City Council. The state will provide tax credits for Qualified Substantial Rehabilitation Expenditures (QSREs) that are awarded through a rolling application process. “The CCHIP allows us to incentivize redevelopment of vacant buildings and add density to the Center City. DHCD’s approval of this initiative and the urban renewal plan, add another tool to unlock the full potential of downtown”, stated Mayor Morse.

The approval of these two initiatives compliment various others projects within the Center City that continue to reach significant milestones. The MGHPCC opened its doors this past December, and serves the research computing needs of partners MIT, Harvard University, Boston University, Northeastern University, and UMass Amherst. The return of passenger rail to the Center City was assured by $2 million MassWorks grant in the fall for construction of the platform at Dwight and Main Streets. Construction of Phase II of Canalwalk is expected to begin later in 2013. Developer E. Denis Walsh, received a last portion of funding in the form of tax credits last week for redevelopment of the former Holyoke Catholic High School campus into 55 units of workforce housing. Planning has begun on redevelopment scenarios for public housing project, Lyman Terrace. “DHCD and the State are committed to seeing Holyoke’s potential realized through the approval of these plans and future investments made in the Center City”, stated Arthur Jemison, Deputy Undersecretary, Department of Housing and Community Development.

“Implementation begins immediately on the Urban Renewal Plan starting with the launch of the CCHIP to attract market rate units to the Center City. The CCHIP aims to fulfill a goal of the URP which calls for increased density and a mix of housing options”, stated Marcos Marrero, Director, Holyoke Office of Planning & Economic Development.

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