A Good Place to Take Girls

From Karelia Stetz-Waters
Monday, July 29, 2013

One of the things I liked most about attending Smith College in the mid 90′s was the abandoned mental asylum located just beyond the athletic fields.

What English major and aspiring writer doesn’t want to go to school in the shadow of a Gothic castle in which people were once shocked, water-boarded, and sent into insulin coma? The Smith girls brave enough to enter the asylum said the walls were smeared in blood. Eighteen, Gen X, and goth, this impressed me immensely.

It was also a good place to take girls.

The asylum had been the site of one of my first dates with my wife. I was 22 and knew nothing about women. She was 32, classy, tough, and athletic–a perfect combination. Plus, she was incalculably rich–in my barely-post-college estimation–that is to say, she had a real job. She was a catch. I had to impress her so I bought a bottle of cognac and took her drinking in the woods behind the asylum.

My wife married me, so the asylum date must have worked.

This summer, I thought I’d go back to pay homage. After all, my wife married me, so the asylum date must have worked. Plus the asylum was the inspiration for my first novel, Dysphoria, and I was still basking in the glow of graduating from aspiring writer to published author.

“They tore it down,” my friend said.

I took the news like the news of a sudden death. I didn’t believe it. Leaving my friends in town, I trudged across the athletic fields, hoping reports of the asylum’s demolition had been overblown. It had to be there. It was so massive, so dark, so unspeakable. It couldn’t really be gone.

But it was. It was worse than gone. It was gone, and in its place, someone had built an idyllic suburb, with water-saving landscaping, communal bike sheds, and green space. There was bark dust and Japanese maples and little children running through sprinklers.

The Wright Stuff

From BusinessWest
By Elizabeth Taras
Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Northampton-based Builders Make a Living on the Cutting Edge

Ledwell and Wright
Mark Ledwell, left, and Jonathan Wright. Image care of BusinessWest
It’s called the “home of the future” by its designer, Bruce Coldham of Coldham & Hartman Architests in Amherst, but it’s being lived in today.

This would be the 2,700-square-foot structure in Hadley that was honored by GreenBuilder magazine with one of its ‘Home of the Year’ awards in 2011, the only house in the Northeast to be so recognized. There are many numbers associated with this dwelling — and that prestigious award — but the most significant is 33, or minus 33, to be more precise.

That’s what the house earned for a Home Energy Rating, or HERS, which means that it produced 33% more energy than it consumed for the previous year, said Jonathan Wright, founder and president of Northampton-based Wright Builders, which constructed the home.

“Through an extremely well-designed plan, a very tight building envelope, and PV [photovoltaic] panels, we went way past zero,” said Wright, referring to the term ‘net zero’ — a benchmark used to describe structures that don’t consume more energy than they create — and putting heavy emphasis on the word ‘way.’

The GreenBuilder award judges were suitably impressed, noting that “this home’s building science is well ahead of the curve.”

That term is one increasingly used in association with projects undertaken by Wright, a nearly 40-year-old company that specializes in residential, commercial, and institutional building, and has a hard-earned reputation for being on the cutting edge of new building processes and techniques, especially with regard to energy consumption and conservation.

“Before these certifications were around, we just considered it smart building,” said Mark Ledwell, Wright’s long-time partner and the company’s co-principal, referring to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and other building benchmarks used today. “We’ve tried to keep abreast of the materials and new technologies and stay on the cutting edge; we want to make buildings that last.”

This philosophy has guided the company through every project in a broad portfolio that includes everything from a host of buildings at Smith College (one of the firm’s many clients in the education sector) to several components of the multi-faceted initiative taking shape on the grounds of the former Northampton State Hospital.

For Sale to Highest Bidder

From Kirby on the Loose
Sunday, July 7, 2013

Domino Cigarettes
Domino Cigarettes, listing #15279
Someone told me that the planning department was auctioning off articles from the state hospital, and I should check it out. I looked at all the items and it was damned depressing to see how little had been preserved for public resale. Pieces of iron with no particular usage, a group of broken down old seats, urinals, cigarette cartons, etc, etc and etcetera.

My friend and I were talking about the sale the other day and we both had the same reaction. What happened to all the beautiful antiques in the administrative building and the chapel? What happened to the large beautiful stained glass windows in the chapel? The great chandelier in the old admin building? What happened to the baby grand piano on the stage?

“Well” I said to him, “Maybe I could call Massdevelopment and…..”
“And what?” he asked. “In a better world you might get some answers, but…”
“This is not the better world.” I said, finishing his thought for him.

We were both part of a group of people that met in the late eighties to talk about reuse of the Old Main. At that time there were still a few patients living in the Haskell Building and Marjorie Senechal and a bunch of our people got the $10.00 tour of Old Main. We saw a multitude of uses for the buildings. Consolidate local state offices up there. The Center for the Arts made a determined effort to use the chapel, but the powers that be probably figured that if anyone got into one part of the building, they would be agitating to preserve more of it.

“The acoustics in that chapel were something,” said my friend. “I was standing in the back of the balcony and someone snapped their fingers on the stage, and you could hear it perfectly.”

Christopher Heights approved for tax break

From The Republican
By Jim Kinney
Monday, July 1, 2013

A city tax break for the $13.4 million, 50,000-square-foot Christopher Heights of Northampton Project in the Village Hill neighborhood has been approved by the state.

Developer Grantham Group will save $213,900 in property taxes over 15 years, according to a news release issued this week by the state Office of Housing and Economic Development. Grantham Group, based in Boston, already has four other assisted living centers in Worcester, Webster, Attleboro and Marlborough.

Economic Assistance Coordinating Council approved this and 18 other projects for participation in the Economic Development Incentive Program at meetings last week. The list includes manufacturing projects in Lee, Adams and Pittsfield. In total, the projects are expected to create 2,347 new jobs and retain 3,102 existing jobs, in addition to leveraging nearly $406 million in private investment and supporting construction projects across the commonwealth.

Grantham Group has said there will be 65 construction jobs. Once built, there would be another 40 permanent jobs at the facility. The facility will have will consist of 71 studio apartments and 12 one-bedroom apartments.

Grantham Group managing director Walter Ohanian said Friday that the company is still applying for low-income tax credits. If that application is successful he hopes to start construction in February.

Grantham has planned the project for a 1.3-acre site on the former state hospital grounds it will lease from MassDevelopment for 80 years. Forty-three of the 83 units will be reserved as affordable housing. MassDevelopment owns the former hospital site.

Artifacts up for bid

From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sink and Urinal, listing #15293
Sink and Urinal, listing #15293
If you’ve ever wanted a urinal or a shower head from the former Northampton State Hospital, now is the time.

These and other mementos from the 19th century complex once called the Northampton Lunatic Hospital are currently up for bid, courtesy of the city’s Historical Commission. Proceeds from the on-line auction will go towards restoring the fountain that once sat in front of Old Main, the administrative building on the 500 acre campus that stood upon Hospital Hill.

Built in the 1850s, Northampton State Hospital housed 2,500 patients, employed 500 workers and operated out of 70 buildings at its height. It included a piggery, a bowling alley and underground tunnels linking the buildings. Former patients are reportedly buried in unmarked graves on the grounds.

The thriving hospital began downsizing in the 1970s as the state deinstitutionalized, placing people with mental health issues in community homes instead. It closed for good in 1993, and the long process of turning the land over to the city began.

MassDevelopment, a quasi-public agency, was chosen to market the land for commercial and residential use. One by one, the buildings were razed. In their place, a range of housing has been built. Defense contractor Kollmorgen, now called L3-KEO, moved its headquarters from King Street onto the former hospital campus and now occupies the lion’s share of the commercial and industrial space.

Even the name of the hill was changed by developers, who thought Village Hill would be more attractive than Hospital Hill. All that remains are the fountain, the reported graves and a bunch of artifacts that MassDevelopment turned over to the city. These include a urinal, an old clock, a cupola, auditorium chairs, window bars, doors and some game tables.

“It’s like they grabbed everything they possibly could,” said Sarah LaValley, a Planning Department staff member who serves as liaison to the Historical Commission. “We ended up with what could be salvaged.”

Historical Commission delays demolition of Shaw’s

From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shaw's Motel, photo by Dale Ruff, The Republican
Shaw’s Motel, photo by Dale Ruff, The Republican
The Historical Commission voted Monday to invoke the demolition delay ordinance for Shaw’s Motel at 87 Bridge St., but left room for a new owner to knock the building down sooner than a year from now.

According to Sarah LaValley, the Planning Department liaison to the commission, the demolition delay ordinance protects buildings from demolition for up to one year. Established in 2005, the ordinance allows the Historical Commission to put a moratorium on demolishing buildings that are deemed to have historical significance.

Shaw’s was run for more than a half century by Josephine A. Shaw, who rented its rooms mostly to the poor and needy, some of them former Northampton State Hospital patients. She sold the 20-unit motel, along with houses at 7 and 9 Pomeroy Terrace, to her son, Donald Shaw in 2010. The properties were then put on the market for an asking price of $1.6 million.

Unremarkable Transformations

North Attendant's Building, Northampton State Hospital
North Attendant’s Building, Northampton State Hospital
The doors and windows of the North Attendant’s building have been removed in preparation for transformation. If to be demolished the loss of this 3 story rectangle is as unremarkable as its place in Northampton State Hospital and institutionalization history.

By 1919 the North Attendant’s home was all complete. Also known as the North Home and the Nurses’ Home, it was built to house 63 nurses, replacing two smaller buildings behind Old Main from the 1890s. The State Hospital under Superintendent Dr. John A. Houston was crossing the threshold of 1000 inmates. Through the Annual Reports the Superintendent and Trustees decry the poor funding, staffing and conditions of their own facility, even though two new buildings, including the North Attendant’s home have just been paid for.

From the superintendent’s report it will be noted that our condition of overcrowding continues despite the many patients, 92 in number, transferred to institutions in the eastern part of the State. We still believe that our hospital should care for all the patients of the district served by it, and we refer to the recommendations repeatedly made in former reports for suitable provision within the district for all the mental cases of western Massachusetts. This matter is so important that we feel it our duty to again call attention to it. The present conditions are not just to the institution nor to the patients who are here and the patients who are to come to us.

Northampton State Hospital Annual Reports. (1919, November 30), pp.7.

In the 1920 Annual Report the Superintendent details major staffing shortfalls, reporting that the State Hospital has been operating with nearly 100 fewer staff than prescribed. Only two doctors served the entire population.

All the routine activities of the hospital were conducted as usual, but under great stress, due to an extreme shortage of help in all departments. With a quota of 223 employees allowed us the average number on our pay roll throughout the year was only 127, and at times there were less than 100. Every one did extra duty. On the wards and in some other departments patients were given keys and conducted themselves as well as the employees, so well, in fact, that eight patients were placed on the pay roll.

Northampton State Hospital Annual Reports. (1920, November 30), pp.11.

Houston details the overcrowded conditions of the State Hospital in the 1921 Annual Report in another attempt for adequate funding.

Serious overcrowding makes it difficult to give our patients the care we should like to give. Too many of them are obliged to share a room with others. This is disquieting to the relatives and does not contribute to the comfort of the patients themselves. We realize that every State hospital has the same problem to deal with, and we accept the situation with what grace we may, hoping that in time adequate provision will be made for the care of all the patients of our district somewhere in this district, and not so far from their homes as are the institutions to which so many have been transferred in recent years.

Northampton State Hospital Annual Reports. (1921, November 30), pp.7.

And again regarding staffing in 1922, two years after the completion of the North Attendant’s building.

Despite frequent advertising and repeated applications to the employment bureaus, we have been unable to fill our quota of nurses and attendants. The quota of women nurses allowed us last year was 58, but the average number on the pay roll during the year was only 31. We have been fortunate in having patients comfortable and quite trustworthy, to help in the care of the wards and of other patients. Nine of them are now acting very acceptably as nurses and to their own pleasure and benefit, and four have done so well that they have been put on our pay roll.

Northampton State Hospital Annual Reports. (1922, November 30), pp.10.

Houston continues in the ’22 report…

The Department of Mental Diseases estimates our capacity at about 820, which is considerably larger than our estimate. The numbers we have been requested to maintain during each of the past five years have been, consecutively, as follows: 980, 990, 1,000, 1,010, 1,025, and for the coming year we are asked to make estimates for the maintenance of 1,060 patients. As a result of this constantly increasing growth in numbers, we have been seriously handicapped in the care of our patients. We cannot transfer our most troublesome patients, consequently a larger proportion of those who remain are of the disturbed class. The wards where easily distracted patients are cared for should accommodate only a very limited number of patients, but now our wards are occupied by anywhere from 40 to 60 patients, and many of these are obliged to sleep in corridors and day spaces. Naturally and inevitably they have an un-favorable influence on each other.

Northampton State Hospital Annual Reports. (1922, November 30), pp.11.

Like any building on Hospital Hill, the North Attendant’s home was as insignificant as staffing, funding and treatment were to the State Hospital system. Though the 1000 inmate threshold far exceeded the State’s own maximum for the facility, which in turn exceeded the staff’s estimate, the population would only continue to grow over the next three decades to reach 2500.

Preservation Committee votes to fund Fountain

From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Community Preservation Committee voted Wednesday to recommend $412,400 in funding for six projects, including the Connecticut River Greenway, a baseball field and the restoration of an old fountain on Village Hill.

The committee oversees Community Preservation funds that the city has been collecting by way of a property tax surcharge since voters adopted the state Community Preservation Act in 2005. Money from the fund, by law, may be used only for projects related to conservation, housing, historical preservation and recreation. There is $980,000 available in Community Preservation funds for fiscal 2013, according to the city.

The committee, which received eight applications in the latest round, has opted to fund six projects. It allocated $75,000 to restore the Victorian-style, cast-iron fountain that once stood in front of the main building at Northampton State Hospital. Following the deinstitutionalization of mental hospitals in the 1990s, the buildings on the campus were demolished. A range of housing now stands at the site. The fountain will be reinstalled as a memorial to the patients and employees who lived and worked at the hospital.

Old Main fountain to rise again

From The Daily Hampshire Gazette
By Phoebe Mitchell
Saturday, August 25, 2012

The fountain that once graced the grounds of the Northampton State Hospital may soon be resurrected close to where it once stood next to the hospital’s main building as part of an effort to memorialize the historic institution.

According to Chairman David Drake, the Northampton Historical Commission has already endorsed the project, which is being spearheaded by a group set up by the Citizen Advisory Committee. The CAC was created in 1986 to provide a forum for citizen input on the redevelopment of the Northampton State Hospital property off Route 66.

Once located outside the building known as Old Main, the fountain is now in pieces and stored at the Department of Public Works, said Drake.

Joe Blumenthal, owner of Downtown Sounds on Pleasant Street, who heads the fountain project group, said Thursday members are putting together an application that will seek funds from the Community Preservation Committee to restore the fountain. He said the idea for the fountain project came from a group of people who had worked at the former state hospital.

Village Hill gathers steam

From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Monday, November 21, 2011

After a period of stagnation, the ball appears to be rolling for housing development on Village Hill, reviving hopes for a new neighborhood.

Village Hill gathers steam, image by The Republican
Village Hill gathers steam, image by The Republican
Last week, city and state officials gathered at the former Northampton State Hospital campus for a ceremony marking the completion of 11 energy-efficient Craftsman and Victorian homes, all of which have been sold and are already occupied. The success of that phase has led to an agreement between Wright Builders and MassDevelopment, which owns the property, to build six additional single-family homes in a new section of Village Hill.

As recently as two years ago, the majority of the Craftsman and Victorian homes, which are at the top of the price range on Village Hill, were still awaiting buyers. Jonathan A. Wright, the president of Wright Builders, bought one of the homes himself. Over the past year, however, the homes, which cost as much as $700,000, have been in demand.

Patrick M. Goggins of Goggins Real Estate, the company that is marketing the homes, said the homes went fast once the dam broke on consumer confidence in the project. The relocation of Kollmorgen Electro-Optical to the south part of the property across Route 66 helped spark interest, he said.

CAC meeting March 23

From the Mayor’s Office:

The next meeting of the Northampton State Hospital Citizens Advisory Committee falls on Wednesday March 23 from 5 – 7pm at JFK Middle School in the Community Room.


1.Approval of past meeting minutes:
December 2, 2009

2.Residential project updates:
-Wright Brothers

3.Other Business

CAC 2011 March 23 Agenda

Hospital development finally taking hold

From The Republican
By Ellie Cook
Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall’s here, and with winter bearing down, projects race to the finish. If this most beautiful season proves long, work can go on right through November.

Village Hill, where the state hospital used to be (the R44 bus still has a Hospital Hill sign), has undergone a huge transformation in the past few years. At first it seemed that people were wary of buying into the new development, and the economy didn’t help.

But according to city businessman and longtime real estate agent Pat Goggins, the Kollmorgen Electro-Optical Corp. plant going up on the South Campus makes people more confident that the development will take hold. “The community has finally decided that it’s really going to happen up there,” he said last week.

He commented, as many have, on the development’s “walkability,” situated as it is about three-quarters of a mile from town, with its bike and walking paths.

Goggins, who is handling the marketing of new homes in the development, talked about the work along the eastern side of the North Campus on Olander Drive.

In the area called Morningside, four single-family houses have been built there, and all of them are now sold, the latest one early this month. Six more will be finished by early next summer; of those, four are “going into the ground in the next six weeks,” builder Jonathan Wright said last week. All six are under deposit, Goggins said. A total of 11 are planned, according to Wright.

Wright attributed the keener interest in those homes to the builders’ expanding the original two designs to seven, some of them “cottage” and “farmhouse” style – a bit smaller and less expensive. The cost ranges from $479,000 to $589,000.

The three four-condo townhouses, opposite Morningside, are two-thirds built. The first building is already entirely owner-occupied. The second is nearly finished, and two of those four condos are under deposit. Around the corner, the final building is set for a spring finish, with one condo already under deposit. They go for $269,000 to $379,000.

Village Hill picks up steam

From The Gazette
by Chad Cain
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Off the Beat: Village Hill picks up steam, despite economy

An anemic economy may have slowed momentum at Village Hill Northampton, but efforts to develop the former state hospital grounds into a mix of homes and businesses is picking up steam this summer.

On the north campus, where most of the homes are being constructed, Wright Builders Inc. reports that interest in its high-end subdivision has revved back up this year. The Northampton company is also a year ahead of schedule in its development of a cluster of townhouses.

Meanwhile, the state agency overseeing the sites overall development is in negotiations with a developer for a 26-home bungalow complex north of the community gardens. MassDevelopment is expected to ink a deal with that unnamed developer rather soon, said spokeswoman Kelsey Abbruzzese.

Finally, on the developments south campus, Kollmorgen Electro-Opticals new 140,000-square-foot manufacturing and office facility is expected to be completed in a few months, at which time the company plans to move its 370-plus employee workforce there from its King Street headquarters.

As for the home construction already under way, Jonathan Wright of Wright Builders said that nine of the 11 high-end, single-family lots in its Morningside subdivision are spoken for. Three of those homes are already built and one is under construction. Work on three more is slated for the fall, with two more to begin next spring.

Meanwhile, the 12-unit Eastview townhouse complex is selling fast. The first of three buildings is finished, with the units selling for between $269,000 and $349,000, depending on their location and whether they have two or three bedrooms.

No Review Required

From Northampton Media
By Mary Serreze
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No Environmental Review Required for Revised State Hospital Development Plan

A revised development plan for the grounds of the former Northampton State Hospital will require no environmental impact report, ruled Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles on April 9.

The new plan for the development called Village Hill “reflects current development opportunities and market conditions,” wrote Bowles in his decision.

The original master plan for the mixed-use project, approved in 1999 and revised in 2006, called for 207 housing units; the 2009 revision calls for 327 mixed-income units in a variety of housing types. While the original plan called for 476,000 square feet of commercial development, the new plan scales that back to 361,000.

Belchertown selectmen want the town and MassDevelopment to help develop former Belchertown State School land

From The Republican
By John Appleton
Monday, March 29, 2010

The Board of Selectmen is supporting plans to link the town with its Economic Development Industrial Corp. and the quasi-public agency MassDevelopment in working jointly on demolition and decontamination at the former Belchertown State School campus.

“I see this as a positive move forward,” Selectmen Chairman James A. Barry said Monday.

The town’s economic development corporation has been working for several years to attract commercial development to the former state school grounds.

Hospital Hill Comments Due by March 30

From The Valley Advocate
By Tom Vannah and Mark Roessler
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A public comment period is open now–until March 30–for those interested in responding to proposed changes made to the master plan for the development on Northampton’s Hospital Hill. The public comment period follows the filing of a Notice of Project Change with the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs by Hospital Hill Development, LLC on March 1. EOEEA Secretary Ian Bowles is scheduled to rule by April 9 on whether the proposed changes require further environmental study.

The formal filing of the notice comes nearly a year after the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) overseeing the project approved a request from developers to add over a hundred housing units to the original plan, diminishing the square footage allotted for office, commercial and community space. While the total site acreage remains the same (124 acres), the acres of land altered from current woodlands and fields expands from 44.8 acres in the original plan to 62 acres.

The original master plan was reviewed and approved by the state in 2003 under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). Subsequent alterations to the plan need to be evaluated to determine whether they warrant further MEPA review. When the original plans for a mixed-use, village-like approach for the site’s southern campus were changed to accommodate the development of Kollmorgen Electro-Optical’s new manufacturing facility, MEPA analysts determined the changes weren’t sufficient to require a re-evaluation of the original approval.

Hospital Hill Seeks Bowles’ Blessing

From The Valley Advocate
By Tom Vannah and Mark Roessler
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On March 1, Hospital Hill Development, LLC, submitted a “Notice of Project Change” to the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, asking OEEA Secretary Ian Bowles to find that the recent changes made to the Village Hill development plans outlined in the report are “insignificant” and do not require further review of the impact on the surrounding environment.

The plan will add more than a hundred new housing units to what is currently open space and woodlands near the Mill River. Should Bowles deem the changes “insignificant,” developers will be allowed to bypass a thorough state review of the changes and eliminate the opportunity for public comment on the finalized plan.

MassDevelopment, in partnership with Springfield-based Community Builders, has been working over the last decade to turn the site of the former Northampton State Hospital into a development that includes housing, offices, retail, and light industry. A local Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) is charged with overseeing the project.

State Hospital Memorial Eligible for CPA Funding

From The Valley Advocate
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
By Mark Roessler

A memo sent out last week to the Northampton State Hospital Fountain Committee by Jacky Duda, the group’s chair, announced that the committee is eligible to apply for Community Preservation Funds for the planning and building of a memorial on the former property of historic Northampton State Hospital. The memo accompanied minutes from the group’s first meeting on January 3, 2010.

The group is a subcommittee of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee (CAC) that has overseen the redevelopment of the site of the former hospital. When it was initially looking for developers for the site in the 1990s, the CAC mandated that prospective applicants include a memorial in the site plan. Last year, the CAC considered multiple locations for the proposed memorial—a cast iron fountain that once stood at the hospital’s entrance. While it’s been decided the fountain will play a central role in the memorial, no design or overall concept has yet been proposed due to lack of funding.

Community Preservation (CP) funds could change that.

State, town to work on defunct school

From the Amherst Bulletin
Friday, December 11, 2009
By Stephen C. Hill

MassDevelopment and the town’s Economic Development and Industrial Corp. will begin working on a memorandum of agreement to have the agency provide assistance in obtaining grants for the demolition of buildings and cleaning of hazardous materials at the former Belchertown State School.

Sample contracts with Springfield and Chicopee will be forwarded to the EDIC, said Richard Henderson, executive vice president for real estate for MassDevelopment, the commercial development arm of the state that helped redevelop the former Northampton State Hospital, Friday at a meeting with town officials, state legislators and MassDevelopment officers.

Grants for the state school cleanup could be a more readily available source of funding than the $10 million earmarked by the state Legislature for the task. That money would come from a state environmental bond for which $1.4 billion was available and $4.5 billion sought this fiscal year, and with the state’s fiscal situation bleak, other financing sources should be explored, said Anne Marie Dowd, vice president for legislative affairs for MassDevelopment.

Bait & Switch

From Kirby on the Loose
Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Image via Kirby on the Loose
Image via Kirby on the Loose

Bait and Switch at the Village?

A lot of people put in applications at the Hilltop Apartments on Village Hill when it opened three years ago, drawn by assurances from its developer, Community Builders, that its apartments would remain affordable. Hilltop has many nice apartments, the upper floors have terrific views, but it still has an institutional air to it. Long windowless corridors, no community space to speak of.

Bill “W” lives there, for now. He is a recovered alcoholic, works in food service in a supermarket. The pace is fast, he deals with the public directly, he works hard, puts in a full forty hour week and sometimes a weekend shift. He earns about $26,000 a year. For the last three years, almost since it opened, he has lived there. It was a big step up from a chaotic druggy rooming house on Green Street where he used to live. Community Builders engineered an $8 million rebuild of the old nurses quarters at the State Hospital, creating 33 apartments. Of the 33 units, 18 were supposed to be low income housing units, 8 would be for Department of Mental Health clients, and seven would be market level. The rents varied, based on your income and the square-footage of the apartments. The range of monthly rents in 2006 were $645 – $850 for a one bedroom apartments, $626 to $1050 for a two bedroom, and $1,050 for the lone three bedroom unit.

We need a mid-course correction on Village Hill

From Kirby on the Loose
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A confession: In the days that Hospital Hill still had a hospital on it, and design aspects seemed as if they could be talked about at public hearings, I got over-involved fighting to save Old Main. Too many meetings. Ask my wife. But even in the thick of it, I wondered if I and other people were being obstructionist: was I involved just because Pat Goggins was the kingpin of the thing and getting about 98% of the commissions on property transfers? MassDevelopment is not a bunch of goons; maybe with Old Main gone and its so-called stigma gone and the old fountain safely crated up in some warehouse, people and industries would flood in, and the city would be better for it.

But it is now 2009, and Old Main is long gone, and many, many millions of state and federal dollars have been put into infrastructure up there. On December 10, 2002 MassDevelopment split up the bulk of the land north of Prince Street into lots for resale. 34 lots, constituting about 34 acres. There are streets up there, but most of them are empty of life. Phase two, which was the area adjacent to Paradise Pond and the Smith playing fields was left undivided. That was the area they were going to build big houses on big lots with views of Paradise Pond.

Six years has gone by, and the developer has had a chance to do his stuff untroubled by pesky community activists. The houses that we saw in all the many plans MassDevelopment has circulated over the years at CAC meetings are now here. Three of them.


From Mary Serreze
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

CAC by Mary SerrezeLeft: members of the Hospital Hill Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) deliberate.

In case you missed it the first time—here’s a public document from the archives. Essential reading for anyone who is interested in the Hospital Hill story. In a nutshell: how is it that a lunatic asylum got taken over by a military contractor? Somebody with a more poetic writing style than mine might wish to take that one on. And perhaps the story needs to percolate: ten years from now, how will things be working on Hospital Hill?

Ghosts of the past have finally been laid to rest.

From BusinessWest
Monday, June 22, 2009

teri-22june09The most prominent is the transformation of the former Northampton State Hospital campus, where ghosts of the past have finally been laid to rest. After decades of talk and bureaucratic maneuvers — along with $28 million spent on the demolition of numerous buildings, environmental studies, new utility installations, and other necessary measures to prepare the site for development — new residential and industrial growth has taken root.

Kollmorgen and the Bike Trail

From the North Street Association
Saturday, June 20, 2009

Here is a blip.tv video of the last eight minutes of the 6/17/09 meeting of the Northampton State Hospital Citizen Advisory Committee. Planning Director Wayne Feiden, Benjamin Spencer, Mayor Clare Higgins and others discuss the route of the bike trail that is to pass near the planned new facility for Kollmorgen Electro-Optical.

Interesting comments about the bike path becoming a memorial to Dr. Kirkbride (strangely, as I think Dr. Earle would be considerably more appropriate) as well as a map of the path Benjamin Spencer is suggesting.

Kollmorgen meets the neighborhood

Kollmorgen to Hospital Hill
Neighborhood Meeting
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
6:30 PM
Cahillane Dodge, 375 South Street, Northampton

Ward 4 City Councilor David Narkewicz has arranged for representatives of Kollmorgen Electro-Optical Corporation to present Hospital Hill neighbors with plans and drawings for its development of a new facility on the South Campus of the former Northampton State Hospital across Route 66 from Village Hill Road. Kollmorgen officials are scheduled to go before the Northampton Planning Board on May 28, 2009 for a Site Plan Review hearing on its new facility, so this meeting will provide neighbors with an opportunity to understand and ask questions about the project before that formal permitting process begins.

Light refreshments will be served.