More state funding is being put toward an effort to redevelop a major source of tourism business in western Massachusetts. Governor Deval Patrick is releasing funding for more work at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton.
$3 million earmarked in a bond bill for a drainage project at the Three County Fairgrounds and the surrounding densely populated residential neighborhood have been included on the latest list of capital projects authorized by Governor Deval Patrick.
Eliminating flooding that occurs frequently at the fairgrounds is a key to advancing a $40 million redevelopment of the property, according to Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz.
"This project is going to help us deal with a municipal issue that affects homes and property, but it is also going to be critical to the ongoing redevelopment of the Three County Fairgrounds that has local and regional economic development and tourism impact."
The fairgrounds are part of a 185-acre watershed in the Connecticut River floodplain. The area also includes more than 130 homes, a few commercial buildings and the Northampton Airport. To end the persistent flooding an engineering report commissioned by the city proposed the installation of a 48-inch diameter drain pipe that would run through the neighborhood, under Interstate 91, to the Connecticut River.
Mayor Narkewicz said the state funding will pay for a full-scale design of the project and environmental permitting. The total cost is likely to exceed $5 million.
"This is really going to help us get this project started. We have already put some city money into it and we will look for other sources of funding, but this really critical to get this project moving forward."
Narkewicz said State Senator Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst and State Rep. Peter Kocut of Northampton worked for a year to earmark the $3 million for the project in a bond bill.
The plan to redevelop the Three County Fairgrounds into a year-round multi-use exhibition facility is one of the top economic development projects in Northampton. The construction of an 80,000-square foot exhibition hall along with other new buildings and upgrades to the electrical system are the major improvements that are planned to be done in phases over the next decade.
The new facilities would allow the fairgrounds to triple the number of annual events held there. Project proponents say it would result in hundreds of additional jobs and a $35 million dollar boost to the local economy.
Governor Patrick was briefed on the redevelopment plans during a tour of the fairgrounds in 2012.
The state gave $4 million to the Three County Fair Association in 2010 to build three new horse barns on the fairgrounds.