HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Construction has begun on the old Holyoke Catholic High School building. $20 million of your tax money and private investment will repurpose the old Holyoke Catholic High School into 52 affordable housing units known as Chestnut Park.
“It’s getting a property that’s been dilapidated back online, something for gateway cities across the state. We need private sector investment to revitalize the downtowns to upgrade properties,” said Eric Nakajama, assistant secretary for innovation policy for the state department of housing and economic development.
Holyoke qualifies as a gateway city based on its population size and that the median housing income is below state average. There are 24 gateway cities in Massachusetts. Their qualifications can help them get extra funding or tax credits for projects.
“I think that the millennial generation…are very interested in urban experience, be that in New York or Boston or Holyoke,” said investor and owner of the building, Denis Walsh of Weld Management. He said he will be investing $1.2 million.
The Catholic Diocese of Springfield sold the building a decade ago, but its historic nature was one reason the approval to renovate it into market-rate housing took so long. There will also be affordable housing units. One Holyoke Catholic alumna said she hopes young professionals will move in.
“More buildings, even small boutiques, just to attract people into the downtown neighborhood. This was vital, I mean every Thursday night we were downtown,” recalled Mary Ellen Leahy of Holyoke.
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said this repurposing is the next step in making that neighborhood nicer. Across the street, there’s the new Veterans Park and the new transportation center, including the bus terminal.
“People come downtown feeling that things are improving where for so many years we saw stores closing and now we’re seeing an upturn certainly in what’s happening downtown,” said Larry Lebrie, alumn and owner of Hampshire Tailor, which is located next to Veterans Park.
New residents are expected to move into Chestnut Park in July 2015.