Federal grant to speed up Route 10 work in Easthampton; Sierra Vista development to break ground in August

From left, U.S. Rep Richard Neal,  Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle and developer Frank DiMarinis address the crowd at the future Sierra Vista Commons site on Monday afternoon.

From left, U.S. Rep Richard Neal, Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle and developer Frank DiMarinis address the crowd at the future Sierra Vista Commons site on Monday afternoon. GAZETTE STAFF/ALEXA LEWIS

Rendering of proposed Greenfield Savings Bank in the Sierra Vista development.

Rendering of proposed Greenfield Savings Bank in the Sierra Vista development. EASTHAMPTON PLANNING DEPARTMENT—

Rendering of a proposed building in the Sierra Vista development.

Rendering of a proposed building in the Sierra Vista development. EASTHAMPTON PLANNING DEPARTMENT—

Rendering of proposed Roots Learning & Gymnastics Center in the Sierra Vista development.

Rendering of proposed Roots Learning & Gymnastics Center in the Sierra Vista development. EASTHAMPTON PLANNING DEPARTMENT—

By ALEXA LEWIS

Staff Writer

Published: 06-25-2024 3:52 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The city is set to receive $960,000 from the federal government for much-needed water infrastructure upgrades along Route 10 in the coming months.

The money, announced by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal in a visit to the city on Monday, will be used to update and expand the pipes that run under the road, providing better systems for nearby businesses and the upcoming massive Sierra Vista Commons development at the former site of Tasty Top.

“This is a horse and buggy highway, literally,” said Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle before a small crowd Monday afternoon at the old Tasty Top site. “And underneath it are horse and buggy level pipes, and those need to be brought up to the present.”

The funds Neal helped secure will enable those improvements to take place much faster than anticipated, LaChapelle said. The proposed upgrades will prove essential for fire suppression, commercial businesses, and much more, she said.

These funds are part of an estimated $15 million in investments in Neal’s district this fiscal year.

The news bodes well for Sierra Vista Commons, a $26 million to $30 million development that expects to see shovels in the ground as soon as Aug. 2, according to Frank DeMarinis, CEO of Tasty Top Development LLC.

Plans call for development of 202 housing units at the 33-acre site at 93-97 Northampton St., along with a 15,000-square-foot Roots Learning Center, a roughly 10,000-square-foot Roots Gymnastics Center, a Grassroots Steakhouse, and a significant portion of conservation land. A Greenfield Savings Bank is slated to neighbor these developments, sitting beside the pre-existing Starbucks.

After a process involving nearly 36 public meetings and extensive permitting, DeMarinis said just one permit remains before the project can break ground.

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This project will undergo phased development, beginning with 44 units of low-income housing tax credit supported housing. The end result is designed to house families of many different income levels, he said.

Peter Graham, an affordable housing consultant at Valley Housing Consultants LLC working on the project, emphasized that the public should consider such developments as “workforce housing.” He noted the resistance that often accompanies rapid development, particularly low-income housing development, and urged those gathered Monday to recognize the community’s need for those who live in these developments, such as teachers and essential workers.

“Growth is being challenged more and more,” said Neal, expressing a similar sentiment during his remarks. “But I do think that tasteful growth will always be welcome.”

In addition to underground infrastructure, plans are in the works for safety improvements to Route 10. These include lower speed limits, new crosswalks, wider roads and sidewalks and possibly a roundabout in front of the Sierra Vista site.

State Rep. Daniel Carey of Easthampton recounted his childhood experiences biking along Route 10 to Tasty Top to get ice cream from his siblings who worked there, which he did “against [his] parents’ wishes,” because the road was dangerous.

“What’s exciting to me is what’s under the road,” Carey said. “It always amazes me how many cars go by and don’t have a clue what’s going on underneath them and what the needs are down there, but we’ve got this great team across the city that knows those needs, brings them to our attention so we’re able to work together and make these things happen.”

Alexa Lewis can be reached at alewis@gazettenet.com.