Live chat: Ask Holyoke Mayor Morse your ...
 
12:59
Mayor Morse: 
Good afternoon everyone! I'm looking forward to answering your questions.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 12:59 Mayor Morse
1:01
Mandy Hofmockel: 
Welcome everyone to another live chat with Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. Readers can submit their questions below, and they may see them pop up throughout our hour-long chat.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:01 Mandy Hofmockel
1:01
[Comment From rrudd rrudd : ] 
Mr. Mayor, as a concerned Holyoke-citizen, I would like to ask you whether there has been any progress concerning the future development of the "Lyman Terrace" project?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:01 rrudd
1:05
Mayor Morse: 
Yes, there has. My approach has been to make sure that we have a comprehensive plan for Lyman Terrace and the surrounding neighborhood. The status quo is unacceptable and something needs to happen at the site, be it full demolition, partial demolition, or rehabilitation. Yet we can't move forward without all the facts or a solid plan. I have engaged the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, the Department of Housing & Community Development, and Mass Development to do a comprehensive analysis of Lyman Terrace and the vacant buildings in the neighborhood in the case that there is displacement of families. I assure that we are making progress. It is my goal to make sure we have a diverse housing stock in the downtown that includes a larger share of market rate housing. We are in the process of designing tax incentives for developers to build market rate housing in downtown Holyoke. Thank you for your question and I'd be happy to follow up with more details if you contact me at the office.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:05 Mayor Morse
1:05
[Comment From Adrian Dahlin Adrian Dahlin : ] 
What are your top three priorities for 2013?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:05 Adrian Dahlin
1:09
Mayor Morse: 
My top priorities have always been centered around four basic principles: economic development, education, public safety, and building civic pride. We have made great progress on all fronts, yet there is still more work to be done. I've been Mayor for about 11 months and we have certainly set the stage for more substantial change in the coming year. I look forward to continuing my work with the public schools - expanding our literacy efforts, modernizing the shops at Dean Tech High School, establishing a gifted & talented program. In economic development, continuing to utilize our new tax incentive program to lure in new businesses in all areas of the City (in particular marketing the vacant land on Whiting Farms Rd.). I also look forward to continue to expanding community policing, as we will open up our second community policing substation in the next month. Our new approaches to public safety have worked: I've created a K-9 unit, implemented tasers, and increased bike and foot patrols. If we make it to the end of the year, Holyoke will have its first homicide free year in over 20 years.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:09 Mayor Morse
1:09
[Comment From sugarmami1961 sugarmami1961 : ] 
Dear Mayor Morse. Thank you for working hard to be in touch with Holyoke citizens. Two years ago when Mayor Pluta was in office, the streets were not cleared safely during the worst snowstorms we had in a while. Always the plows passed no closer than 5-6 feet from the curb. This made walking to a car, crossing streets and snowbanks on the corners almost insurmountable for handicapped citizens like me. Can you make sure that drivers clear the streets in a better way as to get closer to the curbs and take the banks off the corners so you can see and walk through them safely please? Thank you.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:09 sugarmami1961
1:11
Mayor Morse: 
Great question, and yes definitely. As you probably know, we just launched Everbridge, a new citizen notification system to alert citizens of storms, parking bans and other events. I plan to utilize this system, as well as our city website, our winter hotline here at the Mayor's office, as well as social media outlets. We have also picked up enforcement of those individuals who don't abide by the parking bans during the winter. We have a great snow response team here in Holyoke and we are prepared to make sure DPW can do its job. I encourage all residents to speak with neighbors when there is a storm, and to offer a helping hand to senior citizens in need.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:11 Mayor Morse
1:12
[Comment From locust locust : ] 
Mayor, we now have the Holyoke development plan complete. Construction projects like the Council on Aging building and Library look wonderful. However, they are surrounded by abandon buildings (as is much of downtown Holyoke) What is your plan in the next 3-4 months for demolition of buildings aound these properties. "The plan" has a 20 year time line which clearly needs to be accelerated. Please be specific.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:12 locust
1:14
Mandy Hofmockel: 
There's still plenty of time to submit your questions to our live chat in the "Send questions or comments" box below for Mayor Morse to answer.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:14 Mandy Hofmockel
1:16
Mayor Morse: 
We are still in the process of getting our new Urban Renewal Plan approved both by the City Council and then the state. It is a very aggressive plan that addresses a lot of the blight and abandoned properties in the City. The challenge in the past has been that the city doesn't own the private buildings, therefore there is little we can do. In this plan (which can be viewed at www.holyokeredevelopment.com) we have listed the properties we plan to take, demolish, rehab, or sell back to the private market for redevelopment. In addition, working with Treasurer Lumbra, we have been much more aggressive in taking properties for back taxes, and we are planning the city's 1st public property auction since 1976. Our goal is to get these properties back on the tax rolls and into private hands that have real plans for these properties. We have a great financial and legal team that is working just on addressing abandoned properties. I know the pace of this process can be slow, so I often get impatient myself. But I assure you that we are positioned better now than ever before to address vacant properties in the City.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:16 Mayor Morse
1:16
[Comment From Aaron Hohol Aaron Hohol : ] 
Mayor Morse! How are you today? My two questions for you is how do you continue do plan on bringing in businesses into Holyoke? How does the Big-Y planning look right now?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:16 Aaron Hohol
1:19
Mayor Morse: 
We have an aggressive plan that focused on retaining and supporting our existing businesses, recruiting new investment through marketing and tax incentives, and reforming our processes to make it easier for new businesses to come to Holyoke. In January I introduced and approved a new tax incentive program for businesses that has already been utilized several times. We have given a tax incentive to Sealed Air Corporation for a new expansion project, we just gave another incentive to U.S. Tsubaki on Main St. for a $6.3 million expansion, Gateway City Arts on Race St, Package Machinery - a company that just moved to Holyoke from West Springfield, among others. We have also focused on bringing in creative industries with great success.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:19 Mayor Morse
1:19
Mayor Morse: 
In terms of Big Y - we are still working closely with Massachusetts Department of Transportation to get the traffic issues dealt with before Big Y begins construction. We hope for construction to begin before the end of 2013.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:19 Mayor Morse
1:20
[Comment From David David : ] 
Mayor, why wouldn't you let the voters of Holyoke decide if they want casino gaming?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:20 David
1:21
Mandy Hofmockel: 
In that same vein, how do you think a casino in another western Massachusetts city (possibly in Springfield) would impact Holyoke if at all?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:21 Mandy Hofmockel
1:25
Mayor Morse: 
Thanks for the question David. The plan that I saw presented to be in January by Hard Rock was not a good plan - it was a casino in a box. It had no plans to mitigate traffic, it was in the heart of a residential neighborhood, and there were no tie-ins to Downtown redevelopment. Furthermore, the backers of this particular plan didn't have any local connections or investments. I did not think that advancing the Hard Rock plan would be beneficial to Holyoke. I think a casino in downtown Springfield will have an impact on the region. It is important that Holyoke position itself in a way that benefits our community, as we have very important projects to move forward (the Victory Theater Project, preserving the concerts at Mountain Park), etc. I want to see a plan that doesn't just address one city, but looks regionally.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:25 Mayor Morse
1:26
[Comment From locust locust : ] 
Mayor thanks for the response. May be I can be more specific. For instance the new council on aging building is surrounded by the Armory abandon for over 20 years and an apartment pblock on Hampshire & Pine. Looks horrible what are you doing on those two specific buildings. Also notice in the plan nothing about the almost entire abandon city block surrounded by Appleton, Essex, Chestnut & Walnut.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:26 locust
1:28
Mayor Morse: 
That area you mention is included in the plan. The Armory building is not owned by the City, but owned by Atlas Corporation. We continue to work with them to attract developers and/or tenants. In terms of the apartment buildings in that area, we are working with other responsible landlords in the City to explore receivership programs - where other housing management companies would take over the building, invest money, bring up to code, etc. I will do some more research on these 2 properties and can provide you with more information if you'd like. I recognize I'm not being as specific as you'd like.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:28 Mayor Morse
1:29
[Comment From Kelley Rathman Kelley Rathman : ] 
Mayor Morse....first of all, thank you for being open to this sort of format...has there ever been consideration to replace the housing in the flats section, and/or any uninhabited dwellings with the type of housing that was constructed across from the high school? That section of town has improved likely due in part to the pride of ownership that is apparent in the newer dwellings...thank you for your time
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:29 Kelley Rathman
1:33
Mayor Morse: 
No problem Kelley. Yes - you will notice that there has been substantial progress in the Flats over the past couple decades. There is an increasing number of duplexes built by Old Holyoke Development Corporation in the area that have helped bring pride and homeownership to the neighborhood. The Flats has become a safer and more stable neighborhood in recent years and we continue to make progress. There are also big housing challenges in South Holyoke that need to be addressed. In terms of Lyman Terrace, which is also in Ward 1 near the Flats, there has been some desire to do a project similar to the Churchill Homes you refer to, but the ability to get those larger federal grants is extremely rare. We will keep looking for new sources of funding to work with the Housing Authority and other housing organizations to build quality housing that people are proud of. Homeownership is essential - we just launched Buy Holyoke Now (www.buyholyokenow.com) - a coalition of realtors, lenders, and others to package all of the great assets Holyoke has for homeowners.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:33 Mayor Morse
1:34
[Comment From gravytrain gravytrain : ] 
Mayor- what is the sense of building a multi-million dollar train platform right next to the existing train station on the corner of lyman st.? Would the money be better spent revitalizing this existing historical structure?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:34 gravytrain
1:37
Mandy Hofmockel
Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse answers readers' questions in a live chat on Nov. 13.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:37 
1:37
Mayor Morse: 
No it wouldn't. We aren't building a train station, we are building a $2 million dollar platform. If we were to use the H.H. Richardson station it would cost millions of dollars more and the project would take several years to complete. We are saving millions of dollars and a lot of time by going in this direction, as we want to have a stop when the train is going in Spring of 2014. Furthermore, we just were awarded a $2 million grant on Friday from the governor to pay for the construction of the platform, so local taxpayers will not be footing the bill through increased property taxes (as opposed to other municipally funded projects). In terms of the old station, HG&E owns the building and we are confident that it will become an attractive site for redevelopment now that we have plans for a train stop only a block away. I'd rather a private entity with the ability to invest millions of dollars rehab the station, rather than putting that bill on the taxpayers of the city.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:37 Mayor Morse
1:38
[Comment From Andrew Andrew : ] 
Do you have any plans to implement some of the changes recommended by the failed Charter initiative?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:38 Andrew
1:41
Mayor Morse: 
Yes. I will be working with the City Council, the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, and the Holyoke Taxpayers Association to incrementally implement some of the recommendations of the Charter Commission. First - I hope to have a question on the November 2013 ballot that would change the term of Mayor from 2 years to 4 years. I have only been Mayor for 11 months and I already have to think about a political campaign. Mayors need time to implement their policies and see the result of those changes. I hope to work with the City Council over the next 2 months to get that question on the ballot. I also think we need to establish a finance department in the city that combines the office of the treasurer and tax collector so that we have a Chief Financial Officer in the City.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:41 Mayor Morse
1:41
[Comment From David David : ] 
Mayor, that's exactly what I thought you could do on the casino - negotiate a great deal that gets the Victory done and other important porjects as part of the proposal, and then let the voters decide. I don't think a casino in Springfield will have any interest in helping Holyoke projects, nor should they, they will have a load of projects to do down there. What is the price tag on the Victory renovation and how much has been raised?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:41 David
1:43
Mandy Hofmockel: 
We've got time for a couple last questions. Drop any last comments you have in the "Send questions or comments" box below.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:43 Mandy Hofmockel
1:44
Mayor Morse: 
Price tag is estimated to be $28 million dollars. According to MiFA, they have secured nearly $18 million in tax credits but still have a $10 million financing gap. The City is currently working with MiFA to develop a redevelopment plan that will lead to a successful capital campaign to raise the money to make it happen. I think it is an important project in our downtown and we are working hard to push it forward. We are exploring quasi-municipal control of the building similar to the redevelopment of the Public Library to move it along, as the project hasn't accelerated as quickly as we'd like.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:44 Mayor Morse
1:45
[Comment From charlotte charlotte : ] 
To my knowledge no high tech comapnies have decided to build in Holyoke follwing the data center construction. With the data center opening soon what high Tech companies have been approached to move to Holyoke to compliment the new data center creating white collar careers? And has been the 2 or 3 re-occuring themes or reasons for the lack of high tech investment around that area?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:45 charlotte
1:50
Mayor Morse: 
We are in constant communication with companies interested in relocating in Holyoke. We are cutting the ribbon on the MGHPCC this Friday at 1:00pm, and we expect this event to spur a lot of attention on the city once again. We have what's called the "Innovation District Task Force," - a group of stakeholders that meet monthly to just discuss how the city can best take advantage of the $170 million MGHPCC. The MGHPCC has been a catalyst for new growth in the Arts & Innovation District (Gateway City Arts, new residential projects, reinvestment in older properties, increasing property values, etc). We are also in conversation with a potential project that would locate nearby and actually tap into the computing power generated by the Center. We can't discuss private projects until we have specifics but we are making progress on several tangential projects in the area. We have identified ten key strategies to take advantage of the center - some of those are focusing on entrepreneurship, the creative economy, incubator spaces, tax incentives, and also developing site-ready properties for development. In the past 10 months, the City has taken ownership of two major properties (130 Appleton and Parsons) that would make good sites for new businesses.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:50 Mayor Morse
1:51
[Comment From Kelley Rathman Kelley Rathman : ] 
is there any plan to renovate the Lynch School and offer condominiums to Professionals?? the location is excellent...why not attract a good income base to that area?
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:51 Kelley Rathman
1:53
Mayor Morse: 
That is a great idea and we would be interested in pursuing that. Before I took office, no private developer had expressed interest in taking this project on, mostly because the previous Request for Proposal (RFP) was too narrow. We are currently working on a new RFP that could potentially include the entire block, not just the Lynch School, which would make it a more attractive place for redevelopment (market rate housing, retail, restaurants, etc). I like to look at the model of South Hadley Commons for this space as well. It is right off of I-91 and could potentially become a destination right off the highway. We also think this would make a good project for the Holyoke Redevelopment Authority (the City Council giving the property to the HRA to expedite the process).
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:53 Mayor Morse
1:55
[Comment From James James : ] 
Hi Mayor Morse, Any updates regarding the abandon Holyoke Catholic buildings? Thanks.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:55 James
1:58
Mayor Morse: 
Yes. They are owned by Denis Walsh of Weld Management. We hope to begin construction on the Holyoke Catholic buildings in the Spring to transform the school into downtown "workforce housing." This depends on getting a tax credit award from the state, and we will be notified about this award in January. We are very optimistic about our chances and we are excited about rehabbing these beautiful historic buildings and bringing more people downtown to live. We will keep everyone posted on our progress. In the meantime, the owner has always taken care of the property and is current on his taxes.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:58 Mayor Morse
1:58
Mandy Hofmockel: 
That's our last question, folks. Thanks for taking the time out to send in your comments, questions and concerns. Stay tuned to MassLive.com for more Holyoke coverage: http://www.masslive.com/holyoke/.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:58 Mandy Hofmockel
1:59
Mayor Morse: 
Thank you for your questions and thank you for tuning in. If you were unable to get our question answered or would like to ask any follow up questions, anyone is welcome to contact me here at my office by phone or email. Until next time, take care and have a great Holiday season! Join us for the Christmas Tree lighting at City Hall on Friday December 7th - activities for kids and families, etc.
Tuesday November 13, 2012 1:59 Mayor Morse
 
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