Northampton gets grant to develop affordable housing parcels

  • This old state hospital building, shown in May 2016, was scheduled to be transformed into 25 affordably priced, energy-efficient condominium homes in the Village Hill neighborhood in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • This old state hospital building, shown in May 2016, was scheduled to be transformed into 25 affordably priced, energy-efficient condominium homes in the Village Hill neighborhood in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 4/4/2021 8:42:31 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city has received a $250,000 state grant to support the development of affordable housing on the site of the former state hospital.

Mayor David Narkewicz said the state Housing Choice grant will be used to prepare two sites, one on Burts Pit Road and one on Laurel Street, for development.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity,” said Wayne Feiden, the city’s director of planning and sustainability.

Both parcels were originally part of the Northampton State Hospital, and were deeded to the Northampton Housing Authority in the 1990s for affordable housing.

“They’d always been intended to be used for affordable housing,” said Narkewicz.

However, the Housing Authority was unable to successfully develop the parcels because of a lack of resources.

In 2016, legislation was filed with the state to transfer the ownership of the land to the city. However, it wasn’t until last year that the legislation was signed into law.

“We got the bill over the finish line,” said Narkewicz.

Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, both worked to get the bill passed.

“You do a lot of lifting to make it happen,” said Sabadosa, who said that the bill took months and months to get through the House last year.

And she said that it’s beautiful that the bill has moved the city toward getting more affordable housing.

“I really can’t wait to be there the day we cut the ribbon,” she said.

The city plans to transfer the Burts Pit Road parcel to Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, which plans to build three affordable homeownership units on it, while the Laurel Street parcel is set to be transferred to Valley Community Development for it to build approximately 24 affordable rental units.

The land won’t be transferred until the city’s improvements on them are completed, which Narkewicz said will be toward the end of 2021. In addition to the grant money, the city is also spending Community Preservation Act and infrastructure funds on the sites.

Feiden said that a building will need to be demolished at the Burts Pit Road site, while the Laurel Street site needs new sidewalks and a new sewer line.

Feiden said that he’s been dealing with the hospital property since he first began working for the city in 1988, and that affordable housing has always been part of the city’s plans for it. And he said that the developments fit in with the overall concept of having housing within walking distance of downtown, while also preserving open space.

“You can have it all,” Feiden said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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