SOUTH HADLEY – Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy took a tour of western Massachusetts on Wednesday, where he highlighted a number of state projects designed to support cities rural and small towns.
One of those projects was South Hadley’s rapid recovery plan. The city was one of 125 communities that had state-paid planning services to examine the impacts of COVID-19 on their downtown areas and develop recommendations for downtown and shopping districts.
“The needs and opportunities of every town and village are different,” Kennealy said when meeting with local officials in South Hadley.
While the anchor of the plan was the Village Commons Commercial District, it also caters to other areas of the city.
“How can we isolate ourselves more in the future? Said Jeffrey Labrecque, Chief Operating Officer of Village Commons. “A plan like this creates a lot more visibility. “
He said the Village Commons is on the verge of full rental and has weathered the pandemic fairly well, and he hopes the study will help other areas of the community.
“This is what is most important to us,” he said.
The rapid stimulus plan will help the city seek additional funds from the state. Some of the recommendations include implementing a citywide branding and direction, as well as creating a parking fee structure to fund small business resources.
The commons belong to Mount Holyoke College and are adjacent to the college. Labrecque also credited the federal government’s paycheck protection program for helping its tenants, but said tenants nonetheless felt a pinch in securing assets and labor.
Kennealy began his tour in Belchertown before heading to Lee for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Eagle Mill subdivision. He then traveled to Huntington where a MassWorks STRAP project was recently funded. This project is expected to contribute to the improvement of Pond Brook Road.
“It’s great to come back to the state again,” he said on his tour.
After a roundtable discussion in the South Hadley Forum, Kennealy concluded his tour in Montague, where he announced the recipients of the first round of the Rural and Small Town Development Fund awards. Grants go to 16 projects, totaling $ 3 million.
Program grants are available to fund local projects in communities with populations of less than 7,000 people or with a population density of less than 500 people per square mile.
Locally, Cummington received a grant of $ 25,000 to create a redevelopment design plan for the reuse of the Cummington Community House. Whately, meanwhile, received a grant of $ 30,000 to hire a consultant to complete and submit a housing production plan for certification to the Department of Housing and Community Development. Erving and Orange also received grants in Franklin County.
Kennealy noted that the Rural and Small Towns Development Fund is one of 10 programs now bundled under the state’s Community One Stop for Growth, a one-stop application portal and review process for programs. community and economic development grants.
Speaking from Industrial Boulevard in Montague, Kennealy stressed the importance of the “rural and small town” aspect of the development fund.
“I think it’s useful for everyone,” he said, “but for small towns that don’t have a lot of a team around them, I think it’s especially useful. “
After Kennealy spoke, State Representative Natalie Blais D-Sunderland thanked him with a smile on the podium.
“Every time you come here you learn what we are going through with our communities, and we love it when you come back with money,” she said with a laugh.
You can reach Bera Dunau at [email protected] Editor-in-chief Julian Mendoza contributed reporting.