Easthampton seeks input on mill district

  • Easthampton Municipal Building GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/28/2023 12:35:50 PM
Modified: 5/28/2023 12:35:25 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The city is looking for residents to weigh in on how to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety around the Pleasant Street mills district. 

In an effort to help establish a vision for the future of the district, a community meeting will be Tuesday, May 30 at 5:30 p.m. at the Keystone Mill building. 

The Planning Department, Mayor Nicole LaChapelle’s office, and the Department of Public Works will be hosting the event in partnership with property owners, civil engineering firm VHB and MassDevelopment, the state’s development finance agency and land bank.  

Easthamption was among 169 other communities that received funding through the state’s Community One Stop for Growth grant program. The city was recently awarded $175,000 for MassDevelopment to help develop a “renewed shared vision” for the mills and a plan to enhance critical access to the rear of the mills, access parking opportunities and create a cohesive wayfinding system to harness and direct visitors to the existing businesses, said LaChapelle. 

The access way improvements would support the activation of roughly 650,000 square feet of mill space.

“The upgraded infrastructure is needed to both support the continued buildout of vacant spaces in several of the buildings and to support existing businesses and successful programming which has made Easthampton a destination,” she said. 

The transformation of the mill buildings began with the creation of housing units on the upper floors of Eastworks in 1997. 

City Planner Jeff Bagg said that the city has been focusing on the revitalization of the Pleasant Street mills since the creation of the Urban Rivers Plan in 2002. Since then, the city has completed several of the ideas that were envisioned in that plan, including the repaving and replacement of infrastructure on Pleasant Street through community development block grant funding in 2005 and the creation of Millside Park in 2008.

In 2015, the city completed a multi-phased infrastructure project that included the installation of water lines, electrical and the creation of parking at the back of the mill buildings, which allowed multiple commercial tenants to set up shop, including two breweries, a salon, and a cannabis dispensary.

The collaborative investment in the district has allowed the area to thrive, according to City Planner Jeff Bagg. 

“Each mill owner has invested significantly into the successful transformation of the mill district through private investment, careful tenant selection, and true commitment to the full revitalization of these historic buildings,” he said. 

With so much activity, Bagg says the vehicle and pedestrian access to the rear of the mills is no longer adequate.

There are currently three entrances to the mill area, including one at Putnam Court, the Keystone/INSA and one at the American Legion. Among the challenges with the entrances is the fact that there are no sidewalks, lighting and a lack of wayfinding signage. 

With the community’s input, Bagg said that the project will enable the city to create phased design plans to upgrade the sole access points to the rear of the mills to support the continued build out of the vacant mill space. It will also create an updated vision for connections to adjacent neighborhoods through the Manhan Rail Trail, which includes identifying a preferred location for a pedestrian bridge over Lower Mill Pond. 

Tuesday’s community meeting will include a brief presentation and opportunities to review maps, provide input on vehicle & pedestrian safety improvements, wayfinding signage, connections to the Manhan Rail Trail and opinions on the value of a pedestrian bridge over lower mill pond.  

A second meeting will be held in late summer/early fall to review conceptual plans. 

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Valley Advocate Newsletter
Daily Hampshire Gazette Dining & Entertainment


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy