Editorial: Patrick Goggins, Eric Suher alliance a good sign for downtown Northampton

  • The storefront at 76 Pleasant St., which formerly housed Deals & Steals, is among the vacant properties owned by Eric Suher in downtown Northampton that is being marketed by veteran real estate agent Patrick Goggins under a partnership announced last month. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Friday, September 08, 2017

The business alliance between longtime real estate agent Patrick Goggins and prominent property owner Eric Suher is a good sign for downtown Northampton, particularly the effort to revitalize Pleasant Street as a thriving gateway to the city.

While the two men each have made significant financial investments in owning and managing commercial and residential property in Northampton, they have contrasting styles. Goggins, a longtime resident of Northampton, has for many years been a high-profile player in the city’s political and civic affairs — he was City Council president during the 1990s — and founded his real estate firm in 1982. Suher, who lives in his native Holyoke and owns the Iron Horse Entertainment Group, has a reputation as a private person and businessman who operates on his own timetable and takes care himself of most management details for his properties.

Last month, Suher announced that he had partnered with Goggins to market 15 of his vacant properties on Main and Pleasant streets. “Goggins and his team have years of commercial experience in downtown Northampton, along with a remarkable sense of commitment to this community,” Suher said.

Some of those downtown storefronts have been vacant for years, and at times, Suher has angered city officials by failing to provide details about plans for his properties, and missing deadlines for promised improvements.

In April 2016, Suher and Mayor David Narkewicz engaged in a heated exchange during a meeting in City Hall when several business owners raised objections about restructured water and sewer rates. The argument between Narkewicz and Suher spilled beyond that topic, with the mayor drawing attention to Suher’s vacant properties as well as the long-missing “A” on the marquee of the Calvin Theater on King Street that he owns.

Seventeen months later, that frosty relationship has thawed. The “A” was restored to the marquee in October, and, in turn, the city widened the sidewalk in front of the theater and moved the curb away from the building so that trucks are no longer as likely to damage the sign.

Narkewicz is bullish about the businessmen teaming up: “Mr. Suher retaining Goggins Real Estate and working with Pat Goggins to fill some of his vacant properties bodes very well for downtown, and I’m excited by the news.”

Suher, who initiated the arrangement with a phone call last spring to Goggins, will benefit from Goggins’ 45 years of real estate experience, including his knowledge about how to properly price downtown properties so the rents are competitive.

That Goggins already is marketing properties in the two major, mixed-use developments — Lumberyard Apartments and Live 155 — being built on Pleasant Street also appeals to Suher. “It made sense for me to have Pat handle our storefront leasing on Pleasant Street, as he is already handling the commercial leasing for the new construction at 155 Pleasant St. and 256 Pleasant St.,” Suher said. “It is my hope with Pat’s experience we can attract some excellent new tenants to help reshape this important gateway.”

That fits well with the city’s goal. “The larger strategy is to try to extend downtown south onto Pleasant Street, to make Pleasant Street less of a highway-business zone and more into a dense downtown zone where people want to live, where they want to shop, where they want to work,” Narkewicz said.

On Thursday, the mayor and other officials toured Pleasant Street between Hockanum Road and Hampton Avenue, showing off improvements that were paid for with a $400,000 Massachusetts Department of Transportation “complete streets” grant and about $1.5 from a MassWorks grant.

The changes include bike lanes, added on-street parking, new trees, and a narrower street in places to slow traffic and make the area more pedestrian-friendly. It is also more attractive to visitors entering Northampton from the south, or emerging from the nearby platform for Amtrak’s passenger rail service.

The city has made a substantial investment in Pleasant Street, and we’re confident that the partnership between Goggins and Suher will bring new businesses to that section of downtown, helping an important gateway live up to its name.