Holyoke Redevelopment Authority Gives Green Light to Two Proposals

The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board reviewed and accepted two private investment proposals at their October 21st meeting, directing Planning & Economic Development staff to negotiate and finalize agreement terms over the next few weeks in accordance with the City’s Urban Renewal Plan (URP) titled “Connect. Construct. Create. – A plan for the revitalization of Center City Holyoke”.

The first proposal, by WinnDevelopment, would create approximately 100 units of mixed-income housing for rent at 216 Appleton Street, with on-site parking on the first level of the building, community space and on-site leasing offices for tenants. The development concept for the property will seek funding through historic preservation and housing tax credits over the next two years, which Winn has abundant experience in securing for similar mill redevelopment projects throughout Massachusetts. The project is estimated to represent an approximate $38 million investment.

Based in Boston, WinnDevelopment is the national leader in the adaptive reuse of historic structures for residential and commercial purposes, having transformed 28 properties into more than 3,100 units of award-winning, mixed income housing in six states and the District of Columbia.

“We’re pleased to have the opportunity to discuss a joint venture with the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority that could transform this blighted property into a community asset as quality, mixed-income housing,” said Rachel Edwards, Vice President of Acquisitions for WinnDevelopment.

“We’re very happy to have attracted a company with the track record of success in mill redevelopment as is Winn. Their project would put over 150,000 square feet of empty space in the heart of our City back to productive use and add a very significant number of housing units where they’re needed most to stimulate the area’s economic activity,” said Marcos Marrero, Director of Planning & Economic Development for the City and ex-officio Executive Director of the HRA.

Located directly across the canal from the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center and next to the Police station, 216 Appleton Street was formerly used as a wool combing operation for the manufacturing and storage of wool products, until Hart Wool Combing ceased operations in 1990. The property was then owned by Up With Downtown Inc. and used by Russell-Zuhl, a company specializing in products made from petrified wood. The building has laid empty for several years. The City took control of the property in November of 2011 due to non-payment of taxes, and since then has worked proactively on getting the property to be reused. In 2012, the City completed a reuse study of the building in partnership with MassDevelopment. Over the past two years, the City amassed and spent approximately $325,000 in cleanup funds and technical assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) to remove asbestos, lead and other hazardous materials from the building.  In 2014, the City approved transfer of the property to the HRA, enabling the public corporation to accept and negotiate proposals for its redevelopment.

The second proposal, submitted by Bueno y Sano/Good & Healthy Inc., intends to temporarily lease land between Main and Race streets along the second level Canal Walk to establish a mobile food truck operation which would produce a new line of smoked meat menu items, both for sale on-site and for sale at its stores in Northampton, Springfield, West Springfield, Amherst and Acton in Massachusetts, and in Burlington, Vermont. Bueno y Sano is a local, family-owned restaurant business based in Western Massachusetts serving burritos, tacos, quesadillas and salads.  The operations are expected to be set up during the Spring of 2016.

“We’re happy to be part of the excitement in Holyoke,” said Bob Lowry, owner of Bueno y Sano/Good & Healthy, Inc. “There is a strong sense of possibility and purpose.  That is a great combination.”

“The proposal for this retail and production establishment in downtown Holyoke serves to increase  the food amenity options in the City, while also building the food production activities that have grown over the years in Holyoke, including its urban gardens maintained by Nuestras Raíces, Permaculture FEAST, the upcoming Culinary and Hospitality Center of Excellence and others,” said Marrero. “Much like a ‘pop-up’ restaurant, Bueno y Sano’s operation will allow them to get a better understanding of market conditions here before committing to a larger bricks and mortar investment, not unlike other phased developments which the City has seen.”

Mayor Alex Morse praised the Redevelopment Authority for its actions, saying that “the success in attracting a projects like these isn’t a coincidence. It takes many years of aggressive marketing and hard work to make sites ready for private interest and successfully execute the City’s Urban Renewal Plan. I thank WinnDevelopment and Bueno y Sano for their interest to invest here and look forward to welcoming them to Holyoke.”