Massachusetts state and local officials in Northampton,Tuesday marked more progress in a decades long effort to transform a former state hospital campus into a sustainable urban neighborhood..WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
With the addition of 24 new homes that will be built starting this spring, the project known as Village Hill, will be roughly two thirds complete according to officials with the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, the quasi public authority that is overseeing the development effort. The master planned community combines residential, commercial and light-industrial development on more than 126 acres.
MassDevelopment President and CEO, Marty Jones says that over the last decade about $20 million has gone into demolishing the former hospital buildings, putting in infrastructure and prepping for contractors.
Roughly half of the 300 housing units planned have been built. There is a mix of single family homes and apartment houses, and all are currently occupied according to Beth Murphy the project manager for MassDevelopement Two businesses, a custom furniture maker and a defense contractor that specializes in electrical-optical systems are now headquartered at Village Hill.
The Northampton State Hospital closed in the early 1990s as the state pursued a deinstitutionalization policy for the mentally ill. Efforts to reuse or redevelopment the campus, high on a hill overlooking downtown, spanned three mayoral administrations, according to the current mayor, David Narkewicz.
Most of the land that surrounded the hospital, a total of some 500 acres was designated by the city for preservation.
Developer Kent Pecoy, who will build the 24 new homes at Village Hill, said he hopes it marks a turnaround for the construction industry.
The new homes will vary in styles and sizes from one bedroom bungalows to two story four bedroom houses described as workforce affordable.