Historic former library slated for condominiums in South Hadley

  • The former South Hadley Library, at 27 Bardwell St., seen in 2014. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2018 5:19:19 PM

SOUTH HADLEY – The town’s former public library has been sold to a private company and plans are underway to turn the century-old building into condominiums. 

On June 18, Orange Park Management of Chicopee purchased the property for $40,000 and on the same day transferred it to Yi Sheng, Inc. of Holyoke for $80,000, according to Maureen Cronin, South Hadley’s assistant to the associate assessor. 

The proposed project, designed by the Hervieux Design Group of Springfield, will convert the building at 27 Bardwell St. into six residential units while preserving the historical character of the exterior, according to the special permit application submitted in October 2015 to the Planning Board.

The special permit was necessary because it is a proposed multi-family residence in the Residence B zoning district, according to Richard Harris, the director of the Planning & Conservation Department. 

The former library was built in the early 1900s as one of over 2,000 libraries built with money donated by businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie between 1883 and 1929. The town acquired the building in 1923 and an addition was built in the 1970s. 

The building has been vacant since 2013. The town moved into a new library on Canal Street that opened in 2014, Joseph Rodio, public library director, said. 

Town Administrator Mike Sullivan said the Bardwell Street building will not be razed, but it is going to be reinvested in and maintained as an important historical structure. 

“I think there is a nice story to tell because often times in these types of redevelopment projects you see a building fall to the wrecking ball and another built in its place,” Sullivan said. “But it is nice to see this Carnegie library will maintain most of its character and it will be interesting and attractive.”

The town received only one response to a request for proposals for the property, which is assessed at $505,200, according to Sullivan. When taking into account the expenses necessary to redevelop the building – including “serious” legal and design fees – charging $500,000 for the land would have made developers walk away from the project, he said. 

“In Boston or a more developed market, the market might bear that price,” Sullivan said. “We are just happy to go from a liability to asset as far as tax revenue.” 

Ray Hervieux, project architect, would not disclose details of the project’s status other than construction has not started and clean up inside the building will be necessary. They have 18 months to complete the renovations, according to Sullivan. 

Representatives for Yi Sheng, Inc. could not be reached for comment. This is their first business venture in South Hadley, according to Sullivan. 

The manager of Orange Park, Patrick Gottschlicht, originally applied for a special permit for the redevelopment of the former library, which was approved unanimously by the Planning Board on Jan. 25, 2016. Gottschlicht said he decided to leave the project because of issues with acquiring the land title from the town, and subsequently transferred the special permit to Yi Sheng in January of this year. 

Those complications arose from the land being protected by Article 97 of the state constitution, Sullivan said. Language used when the library was donated to the town in 1923 stated that the land could be used as either a library or park, thereby needing state approval for the redevelopment. In order for the property to be sold, the state Legislature, the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the governor had to sign off on the purchase, according to Sullivan. 

Gottschlicht said he received reimbursement from Yi Sheng as part of the purchase agreement. Springfield attorney Stephen M. Reilly, Jr. represented both parties as he arranged the transfer of the special permit. 

At the Jan. 8 Planning Board public hearing for the transfer of the permit, Hervieux, the project architect, “indicated that the developers plan to finish 2 units quickly for marketing purposes. The other units will be finished in a manner which allows for the buyers to be involved,” according to minutes of the meeting. 

Select Board Chairman Ira Brezinsky said putting the property back on the tax rolls will be a great plus for the town. 

“We are taking an unused property that will no longer be a liability to the town and puts it in the hands of private enterprise where they can do what needs to be done for the property to be an asset for the community,” Brezinsky said. 

Brezinsky said in the short term they will see revenue coming in as contractors have to pay for building permits. In the long term, he said, the town will see the benefits of the condominiums generating tax revenue. 

“Developers are putting in substantial money and it is a great asset for the neighborhood,” Brezinsky said. 

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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