Northampton closes deal for old church for Resilience Hub

Published: 06-04-2023 4:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A long vacant church building in downtown Northampton will officially house the Community Resilience Hub.

At the end of the City Council’s 2½-hour meeting on Thursday, mostly focused on the city’s fiscal 2024 operating budget, Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra announced that the acquisition of the former First Baptist Church at 298 Main St. is complete.

“I am incredibly pleased to be able to announce to the council that I have accepted and exercised the option on 298 Main St., the former Baptist church, for the Resilience Hub,” Sciarra said as applause and cheers came from the councilors in the City Council chambers. “Both parties have signed this agreement. This is huge. This is huge.”

The city is paying a $3.175 million negotiated final price when the deal closes within a month.

“I was really happy to be able to celebrate this huge milestone with all of you this evening,” Sciarra said.

The community hub will support residents who face chronic and acute stress, such as those who are homeless, and act as an emergency center if there is a disaster. It is envisioned as a centralized location for addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and being the site for the city’s Division of Community Care.

The next steps will formalize Community Action Pioneer Valley as the lead agency managing and coordinating the hub, Sciarra said, and quickly move on plans for rehabilitating the building.

The 118-year-old church building, located next to Forbes Library, has been vacant since 1993, when it was acquired by developer Eric Suher, the owner of Iron Horse Entertainment Group. It has about 14,500 square feet of space.

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Funding for the hub project, including the building purchase, comes from sources including $1.6 million derived from marijuana community impact fees and a $200,000 pledge from Smith College. The city has also received roughly $507,000 from Community Development Block Grant funds and $53,000 from other donations.