Brewery, day care center, trail set for old Belchertown State School property

  • Site of the former Belchertown State School. SUBMITTED PHOTO/Kendall Cardwell

  • Site of the former Belchertown State School. SUBMITTED PHOTO/Kendall Cardwell

  • A rendering shows plans for the Carriage Grove neighborhood on the former Belchertown State School site.  SUBMITTED PHOTO/MassDevelopment

  • A map shows the planned Carriage Grove neighborhood at the former Belchertown State School property.  SUBMITTED PHOTO/MassDevelopment

Staff Writer
Published: 3/8/2019 12:48:58 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Once the site of a dark piece of Belchertown’s history, the former Belchertown State School property is set to host a brewery, day care facility, multipurpose trail and roadway as part of an ongoing project to bring a brighter economic future to the community.

MassDevelopment, which oversees the former State School project, has received “dozens of inquiries,” said Claire O’Neill, vice president of planning and development, around 10-12 of which are currently active. 

“We’re very hopeful that those will transform into developments over the next few months,” O’Neill said. 

Belchertown Day School and Arcpoint are the only serious inquiries at this time, according to the town’s Economic Development Industrial Corporation (EDIC) Chairman William Terry.

CJ Eldridge, co-owner of Arcpoint, said that he thinks there’s a “99 percent chance” that the brewery will end up there. 

“The 1 percent is just you never know what can happen,” Eldridge said. “But it’s pretty much locked and loaded that we’re going to be in there.”

The company is currently in negotiations with MassDevelopment for purchase price and design approval. 

Arcpoint received its brewery license in Oct. 2017 but does not currently have a permanent taproom location. Eldridge hopes that the state school location will break ground within the next few months, with the goal of opening for business in mid-to-late fall 2019. The location would be the only brewery taproom in Belchertown. 

Eldridge said that he and co-owner Chris Peterson had been looking at the area as a possible business location since the brewery’s beginnings, but had not expected the property’s development to move along as quickly as it has. Once they realized the development timeline, Eldridge said it was “a no-brainer” to seriously inquire into the location. 

“I think just the general area and the location itself is prime for commercial use in the future,” Eldridge said, “and I think the new development area is going to be key and instrumental to how Belchertown looks in the future.”

Eldridge called Belchertown a “great central area” between communities such as Amherst, Ludlow and Granby and said he also sees the brewery’s involvement with the State School property as an opportunity to influence the town’s economic profile. 

“To be one of the first people in the new developing area, we can kind of set the tone,” Eldridge said, adding that the business would help to “have a town that’s seen as growing and open the door to new entrepreneurs.”

The new child care facility, which will replace the current Belchertown Day School site on State Street, will be around 8,400 square feet in size and capable of serving 110 students at a time, said Pat Bruni, executive director of Belchertown Day School.

The Day School received site approval at a Feb. 26 Planning Board meeting, and Bruni said that a sale agreement is slated to go through in late May or early June. 

Bruni said that the school is planning to reach out to Christopher Heights in the future “to see if we can work things out to work some programs together.”

The committee is “certainly looking for office type companies,” Terry said, but noted, “really and truly we are in a position to seriously consider any and all offers.”

Aside from bringing in new businesses, MassDevelopment is also continuing construction on a roadway and multipurpose trail, O’Neill said.

In 2017, the town received a $3 million state grant for constructing the Carriage Drive roadway as well as related electrical and sewer work. MassDevelopment has spent about $2-2.3 million of the funding so far, O’Neill said.

The Lake Wallace Sensory Trail, which stretches from 7,000 to 8,000 feet and is intended for pedestrians and bicyclists, will also loop through the neighborhood.

The Belchertown State School for the Feeble-Minded opened in 1922 as an institution for children with intellectual disabilities. The school is now infamous for human rights violations against patients and was shut down in 1992.

Since the 90s, the town’s Economic Development Industrial Corporation (EDIC) has been looking to use the location to invest in the town’s future. 

The developing neighborhood, called Carriage Grove, has residential lots of up to 24 acres available, as well as commercial lots of up to 9 acres, according to MassDevelopment. In addition, 7.5 acres are available for office, retail or medical establishments.

Terry, who has been involved with the project since the early 1990s, said that he would “like to see it moving along faster” but added “the approach that we’ve got going is the reasonable, best approach that we can come up with under the terms and conditions we have to deal with.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com. 

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