Gov. Baker proposes to turn unused state property into homes & businesses

Baker referred to Northampton, where MassDevelopment has slowly repurposed the former Northampton State Hospital.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The state wants to help boost the economy by selling vacant properties. During an “Open for Business”” event at the State House Monday, Governor Charlie Baker unveiled a new plan, REAL, or Real Estate Asset Leveraging strategy.

About 40 abandoned buildings and vacant land are all owned by the state, but generating no tax money for the Commonwealth. Governor Charlie Baker wants to transform them into homes, businesses, jobs, and revenue. Baker referred to Northampton, where the state’s economic development agency, MassDevelopment, has slowly repurposed the former Northampton State Hospital into a commercial and residential development, now known as “Village Hill.”

Northampton Mayor David Narkiewicz told 22News plans allot for 126 acres of developed land. Several people have already moved into new homes there and businesses are thriving on the campus. MassDevelopment’s website shows four sites still available for commercial use.

“To the extent that we can take land that’s currently not on the tax roles, and put it onto the tax roles, and put it into use, that’s a good thing for cities like Northampton,” said Mayor Narkiewicz. He added that one of the City’s largest employers, L3 KEO, has moved to Village Hill, which is just 65 percent developed so far.

A former brick hospital building with boarded windows and three floors of dilapidated front porches is one example of unused, state-owned property. Mayor Narkiewicz said he hopes through the governor’s announcement, developers will be attracted to make it into something useful, like a new building under construction right next door.

“I think it looks better now. I know there was the same situation in Belchertown and they haven’t done anything with those buildings, so it’s definitely better. An improvement,” said Kyle Little. He works at a business on Village Hill. 22News noticed several other workers walking around the campus during their lunch break.

Mayor Narkiewicz said the state has also been working to repurpose the old state transportation yard on Locust Street. According to the state government website, MassDevelopment is also working to sell off state-owned property on the grounds of the former Belchertown State School.

Click here for a list of “Open for Business” properties.

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