Popular Mechanics, a national publication, recently listed Holyoke as the sixth best city in the country to start a business with only other 13 other cities nationwide. Also making the list was Portland, Maine and Austin, Texas. The popular magazine says it’s part of the next wave of cities turning innovators into entrepreneurs. Here are a few reasons why Holyoke is one of the nation’s up and coming cities:
- Amtrak’s high-speed Vermonter trains made their first run through the Pioneer Valley this December and will be partially available for Holyokers to use by spring 2015. The new trains, which travel at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour, made stops at some new stations: the high-speed rail project is bringing rail service to Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield, as well as Springfield, which is already served by the Vermonter.
- Holyoke Community College (HCC) will receive a $1.75 million grant from the state to expand the college’s culinary arts and hospitality program. The grant will allow HCC to build a new state-of-the-art center in downtown Holyoke, doubling the size of the school while adding an associate’s degree to its certificate program. In addition to providing a platform for workforce training, the expansion of this program will bring dozens of students into downtown Holyoke. This is great news for HCC and for the city of Holyoke. When the program is up and running by the fall of 2016, students attending class in our downtown will want places to eat or grab a coffee. As more people come to the downtown, the economic and civic life downtown is enhanced for everyone who already lives there and for the prospects of new business opportunities to serve the people visiting the area.
- Construction began last month and the $19 million conversion of the old Holyoke Catholic High School campus into 54 apartments that should take a year. The apartments’ rents will be geared to tenants with up to moderate incomes, with 10 percent, or five units, available for those receiving federal government rent help.
- When the city was founded, in 1850, the river powered waterwheels for paper mills; today it generates inexpensive, clean energy through the Holyoke Gas and Electric company producing their own power through dams in the city. They are then able to pass on affordable rates to businesses, and provide incentives for energy efficiency upgrades. Combined with cheaper real estate, it’s a win for growing companies and homebuyers alike.
- The old mills are attractive industrial work spaces. A new coworking and market space, Brick Coworkshop, has been in one of the old mills since 2013. The owner says his operating costs are about a third of what they would be in a bigger city like Boston.
- The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center opened here in November 2012 and has drawn other tech-based businesses to the city.
- Gateway City Arts provides an affordable and flexible co-working space for artists and creatives, ideal for making, teaching, and performing art in a variety of disciplines. Their mission is to build and strengthen community, culture and the arts by providing the space and infrastructure for making and teaching the arts. Holyoke recently gave them a tax incentive—a first for a local creative business—and they recently purchased another building.
- The Spark initiative was launched with a $250,000 grant from the Boston Fed to support “entrepreneurship for all.” Sometimes people with good ideas don’t know how to access space or get business permits or financing, so Spark helps out.
- The Canalwalk Phase II has begun and the design includes a wide promenade along the First and Second level canals. Decorative paving and landscaping, railings, fences, streetlights and benches will enhance and maintain the canal banks as well as encourage Canalwalk users to linger and enjoy the views across the open canals. The Canalwalk will join existing features such as the Children’s Museum, Heritage State Park and the Volleyball Hall of Fame, as well as other future shops, cafes, galleries and businesses expanding along with this area’s development.
Other private projects being planned with the assistance of the City will be materializing in 2015, such as the expansion of Marcotte Ford, the redevelopment of the former Lynch School property into a retail site, and the re-use feasibility study of the now closed Mount Tom Coal-fired Power Plant.I agree with Mayor Alex Morse’s assessment and have nothing but high hopes for Holyoke’s future: “Folks still remember a Holyoke that was vibrant and prosperous. Now, for the first time since Holyoke Catholic closed, students will return to the downtown. Holyoke Catholic itself will reopen as an apartment complex. The train will welcome new people and workers to our borders and better connect residents and entrepreneurs to the region and the New York metro area. Our investments will multiply. And this is how our city government should work—planning holistically instead of looking for quick-fixes. We are helping make investments that build off of one another in the service of a long-term vision. With all the progress we saw in 2014, I am confident that 2015 will be another great year for the City of Holyoke.”
Along with Mayor Morse and the residents of Holyoke, I believe all these current and coming developments mean great things not only for our city and businesses, but the local real estate market. Both present and future residents can look forward to increasing home values and the reestablishment of Holyoke as a vibrant, diverse, successful and exciting place to live, work, and have fun. Please pass this information along and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about how these developments will affect the real estate market!
Source Contributors: Masslive.com, Mayor Alex Morse via Holyoke.org, and wwlp.com