| Danielle Eaton
HOLYOKE – The city of Holyoke has received millions of dollars from the state to help invest in and make infrastructure upgrades to a section of South Holyoke.
The $6.56 million MassWorks Infrastructure Grant was announced by Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Alex Morse on Dec. 10 during a news conference in Holyoke.
The MassWorks Infrastructure Grant, according to Mass.gov, “provides grants to communities to help them prepare for success and contribute to the long term strength and sustainability of our Commonwealth.”
State Rep. Aaron Vega told Reminder Publishing the grant will be used for improvements on and around the streets that surround Carlos Vega Park. Vega said the was “deemed as an area for development by the housing authority and Holyoke Redevelopment Authority.”
In a news release from the Baker-Polito Administration announcing the grant, streetscape improvements to the area will include a new traffic configuration, curbs, sidewalks, landscaping, lighting, bike lanes and pedestrian connections, stormwater bump out planters with new trees, improved alleyways and a 18,950 square-foot green space.
The administration said the grant will pave the way for an affordable housing project by the Holyoke Housing Authority.
The improvements, Vega said, are important because “until the infrastructure is done you can’t turn that area into housing.” Additionally, he said the improvements that will be funded by the grant are ones that the “housing project wouldn’t do” and will make “the area more attractive for development.”
Vega said the improvements have been in the plan for the development of South Holyoke for a while now. “This is part of the redevelopment plan, and what this means is we’re able to set the table for developers,” he said.
Another benefit of the grant is that is sends a message to developers. “It sort of signals to developers that the city and the state are invested in the area,” he said.
In total, 90 units of affordable housing are planned. Included in the 90 units would be 66 rentals and 24 home ownership opportunities.
Vega said Holyoke has seen the benefits of MassWorks Infrastructure grants before and know they work. “These kinda state programs really work because it initiates private funding. It was this type of grant that helped initiate the Lyman Terrace [Apartments],” he said.
The city’s aging infrastructure has been a topic of concern within Holyoke this year as several fire hydrants were found to have little to no water pressure while firefighters tried to put out a house fire in September. Vega said the MassWorks grant will aid significantly in fixing the aging infrastructure within the city.
He added the water department is also using a bond to address the infrastructure problems. “The Holyoke Water Dept. is using a bond to addition fix some of the water issues throughout the city, that’s been an ongoing issues, so that’s good to finally get that fixed,” he said.
The Baker-Polito Administration said the Holyoke Housing Authority “will contribute $139,500 for landscape design, engineering and cost estimating” while the city will “leverage more than $9.4 million approved for other area projects to be completed in coordination with the MassWorks project.”
Additionally, the administration said the city’s water department will be making “capital improvements in the area, and a $4 million Complete Streets project on Cabot Street between Race Street.” Furthermore, the Willimansett Bridge, which connects Holyoke to Chicopee, will be “completed in the future and also support the housing project.”