Demolition crews began the careful process of bringing the Uniroyal property to the ground last week. As one worker removed steel and granite and pushed down brick, another prevented dust from the operation from entering the air with a steady stream of water.Jan. 13, 2010.
By G. Michael Dobbs
CHICOPEE - In the shade of the Uniroyal building the temperature on Thursday was frigid but there were plenty of smiles on the faces of a group of city officials, media and residents as they watched the beginning of the demolition of six buildings in the complex.
"Oh yeah, baby," someone said with enthusiasm as a wall fell.
As one workman hosed down the brick structure with water to prevent dust from rising, another operated a mechanical shovel truck that carefully took the building apart. The operator gingerly lifted the granite window casings from the building and laid them in a pile on the ground before him.
The reason for the careful approach is that much of the building is going to be recycled, according to Mayor Michael Bissonnette. The brick, steel and granite will all be re-used, he said.
This first phase of demolition will continue through the winter he said, weather permitting, and should be completed in May. Also completed in May would be a strategic action plan for the redevelopment of the property.
Bissonnette is currently considering proposals from two companies and will make a decision this week. He said the deadline of May 1 to deliver a report would make a tight schedule for whichever company is selected.
The report is part of the agreement with MassDevelopment, he explained and would answer the question of "What is the end game after demolition and clean up?"
Bissonnette also told Reminder Publications the city would soon take control of former Navy Housing adjacent to Westover Air Reserve Base for future re-development.
The housing consists of five single-family homes, former officer's housing on General's Row and 128 units of housing in 64 duplexes.
The Department of Defense and the Navy will convey the property to the city in mid-February. The city will then put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the single-family homes in March. The mayor added the city could consider development plans involving one or any number of the five houses.
Over the next year, Bissonnette said city officials would meet with residents of Fairview to determine a development plan for the 64 duplexes. The houses have been vacant for the past 12 years, but Bissonnette said they are in good shape as they have been maintained by the military.
"What I don't want to see is something that doesn't fit with the neighborhood," he said.
Ideally, the mayor would like to see condo units created that would target older residences for minimal impact on the city's schools. He does not want any subsidized or Section Eight housing at the site, but instead properties that could contribute to the tax base.
He said the duplexes represent a potential $12 million addition to the city's tax rolls.